By Rod Gilmour
Wimbledon men will play Dutch side HC Oranje-Rood for a place in the Euro Hockey League final after a highly memorable last 16 weekend in Eindhoven.
The English champions saw themselves as underdogs for both their matches – but progressed in superb style in beating two tough German sides, UHC Hamburg and Mannheimer respectively.
In only their second season playing in Europe, Wimbledon became the first English club side to reach the last four since Reading in 2011 – and at the same time handing the men’s game a much-needed shot in the arm.
Ben Hawes’ side were clinical and defensively excellent against Hamburg as they patiently waited for their chances to record a fine 3-1 win.
And in the quarter-finals they again had to keep to the task to see off Mannheimer after holding the Germans 2-2 at full-time before progressing 5-3 in a riveting shoot out when Phil Ball brilliantly held his composure to slot home from a tight angle.
“We came here this weekend with a real belief,” said Wimbledon’s man of the match Jonny Kinder. “We didn’t think we were favourites, but we had a clear game plan and everybody executed it which is fantastic.
“We’ve got so many players capable of doing very special things, but this was a team performance and everyone contributed. Reaching the final four is new territory for us, and we’re really proud.”
Wimbledon will now head to Lee Valley at the weekend in fine fettle as they attempt to defend their league title at the play-offs.
They return to European action when the Final 4 takes place in Antwerp in June.