Friday, January 21, 2022

Surbiton aim high at Euro Hockey League Ranking Cup

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Lucas Ball
Lucas Ball is a freelance sports journalist

Surbiton will be looking to make their mark on the Euro Hockey League and not become “overawed” as they take on top Belgian side KHC Dragons in the EHL Ranking Cup on Saturday.

The English champions face a Dragons side featuring the likes of Florent Van Aubel, Felix Denayer, Loick van Doren and Conor Harte, before potentially facing Rot-Weiss Koln.

Back at home, the London side sit top of the Men’s Premier Division after two matches and coach Mark Pearn has been pleased with his side’s start overall. “We had a pretty good pre-season so it’s followed over from that,” he said. “There’s going to be a bit of inconsistency with some new players so all I could ask of the guys was for them to keep working hard and improve week-on-week.

“You’re going to get maybe a couple of crazy games at the start of the season and the Holcombe game was that – but overall we’re pleased and even in that game we dominated the chances and possession, we just conceded a few more goals than we’d have liked.

“We’ve got a good opportunity to play one of the best Belgian sides and one of the best German sides too. It’s great to have the opportunity to play at this level and we played Malaysia on Tuesday as well. It’s a new experience but a great one to set us up for the rest of the league.

“Most sides focus on themselves and you try to take clues on what the opposition are doing and adjust it slightly. We can’t just go into this game being overawed, we’ve got some top quality players as well – that’s what it’s all about. They have their weak links too and we’ll try to exploit those.”

Surbiton played Malaysia on Tuesday night, with Pearn admitting it was a “good step up for us” and vital preparation for this weekend as the domestic champions look to test themselves with high-level action so early in the season.

English clubs have had some limited success in Europe in recent seasons, but Pearn is hopeful that the new league structure which should be played out in full for the first time in 2021/22 will help to bridge the gap.

He added: “English clubs have had results where we’ve beaten top sides but I think where we’ve struggled is that the second part of the EHL tends to be later in the season when we’ve already finished whereas the continental leagues are hitting the key part of their season, so I think that’s been a really key issue for us in terms of our domestic set-up.

“We’ve finished early and then the EHL’s been sort of two months later when internationals have been away and it’s been hard to keep that high level of training going.

“The second half is played all over Easter so with the new structure we’re not having to sort of hang on for two months. We hope we’re in that top six after Christmas for it to give us more high quality games in preparation.” 

Surbiton take on KHC Dragons on Saturday at 15:15 BST

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