Forward Jamie Golden turned flying Scotsman on the goal-line as Surbiton captain Jonny Gall hailed a fighting team spirit and Mark Pearn’s side became the first English club to reach the last four of the Euro Hockey League for five years.
Surbiton overcame Belgian side KHC Dragons 1-0, courtesy of a third quarter PC strike from Luke Taylor’s powerful wrists, to reach their first semi-final. They will now play former winners Rot-Weiss Köln, of Germany, on Easter Sunday for a place in the grand final in Amsterdam.
Beating one of the powerhouses of German club hockey – who beat Kampong 2-1 at the Wagener Stadium – would be a seismic result for the English game and could well propel to two sides into the EHL next season once the complex rankings system is sorted out.
And what a way this was to deliver a run not seen on the European stage since Wimbledon finished fourth in 2017, coming nearly two months after Pearn had taken to social media to take aim at the way the English hierarchy was hampering club hockey. Fade away? This was some hungry Surbiton side in action on the continental club stage.
The crucial strike from Taylor, his third in two games, came in the third quarter after Golden’s moment on Ore Ogunlana’s line when he flung himself to avert a Dragon goal on target from dangerman Simon Gougnard’s flick.
This after the visionary Alex Williams – returning here to full effect after long-term injury – had won the corner routine from his direct run.
With under five minutes left, a Dragons corner goal from Henri Raes was ruled out after dangerous height on Felix Denayer’s castle hit. There was jubilation on the Surbiton bench at full-time.
“It was a crazy game,” said captain Gall. “We have improved massively over the year, it has been a rebuilding phase and for the way the guys put in that effort was incredible.”
“It was a big focus coming into the game,” Gall added of the defensive heroics, “a centre forward picking the ball off the on the line summed up a brilliant team effort from anyone.”
Gall then admitted that there was plenty more attacking intent in the tank ahead of their Easter Sunday clash.
He said: “With the excitement of Dave Goodfield and Nick Park there’s a lot more to go forward. We have shown our defensive work and now we can bring it up another level and to keep peaking.”
Club de Campo became the first side to advance to the final four of the men’s EHL e as they proved too strong for Austria’s SV Arminen, winning 3-0.
The Spanish side will face Dutch outfit Bloemendaal, the defending champions who beat Campo’s compatriots Atlètic Terrassa 3-1. The match was a repeat of the 2021 final.
Earlier, Surbiton women were disappointingly beaten 2-1 by Belgian champions Gantoise in their first EHL women’s match.
In the league Ranking Cup, Hampstead & Westminster were denied a superb comeback against Mannheimer, of Germany.
The Londoners were 3-0 down before rallying to 3-3 with goals from Sam French, Matt Guise-Brown and Teague Marcano. They then lost in the shoot-out.
Chris Cargo, the H&W captain, told EHL: “To come back from 3-0 down and bring the game to a shoot-out was impressive from the guys. Often it’s the team who levels the game that has the impetus to go on and win the shoot-out, but it wasn’t to be today.”
In the Club Trophy, East Grinstead women proved too good for Ukrainian side Sumchanka 5-2, with Ellie Rayer recording a hat-trick and Sophie Bray and Autumn Bowden in the goals. The Sussex side had taken out kit and cash to hand over to the Ukrainian side in Milan.