No League Finals leave Hampstead & Westminster looking back at the past

Hampstead & Westminster celebrate being crowned champions of England (pic Mark Clews)

Hampstead & Westminster celebrate being crowned champions of England (pic Mark Clews) - Credit: Archant

England Hockey finally decided this year’s League Finals could not be fulfilled due to the coronavirus pandemic last week, with Hampstead & Westminster qualifying for the Euro Hockey League alongside Surbiton.

Action from Hampstead & Westminster's clash with Surbiton (pic Mark Clews)

Action from Hampstead & Westminster's clash with Surbiton (pic Mark Clews) - Credit: Archant

The two clubs could have met for a third successive year in the grand final, had they won semi-finals against Old Georgians and Wimbledon.

And the previous two finals between them certainly produced plenty of excitement and drama, with mixed fortunes for each.

Hampstead & Westminster beat Wimbledon 2-1 to reach the 2018 final and made a bright start, putting Harry Gibson’s goal under early pressure.

Surbiton opened the scoring on 14 minutes, though, when great skill by Zach Wallace created a chance for Alan Forsyth to score and it was 2-0 soon after as Arjan Drayton-Chana was fouled in the D and Forsyth converted the penalty flick.

Hampstead & Westminster celebrate a goal against Surbiton (pic Mark Clews)

Hampstead & Westminster celebrate a goal against Surbiton (pic Mark Clews) - Credit: Archant

However, Hampstead mounted a superb comeback, halving the deficit with an excellent finish from Chris Cargo at a corner before Will Calnan netted the goal of the game.

After a stunning solo run, Calnan produced an impressive reverse stick finish to ensure honours were even at half-time.

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Buoyed by that moment of sublime skill, Hampstead moved 3-2 up in the second half when Matt Guise-Brown guided the ball expertly home from a penalty corner, for his second goal of the weekend.

But Surbiton removed Gibson for an extra outfield player as time ticked down and won a corner with two minutes to play, which Gareth Furlong converted to set up a shoot-out.

Calnan and Harry Martin gave Hampstead a 2-1 advantage, with Forsyth replying for Surbiton, before David Goodfield netted to ensure sudden death.

The clinical Forsyth put Surbiton ahead and GB teammate Martin saw his effort saved by Gibson to leave Hampstead heartbroken.

One year on and the teams met again in the showpiece at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre, after Hampstead beat Beeston 2-1 in their semi-final.

And the tables were turned as the Maida Vale club came out on top by a 3-1 margin to cap their 125th anniversary season in style.

After a fiery opening few minutes, Hampstead opened the scoring towards the end of the first quarter with a drag flick at a penalty corner from expert Guise-Brown.

They were down to 10 men after Martin was green-carded, but two of Surbiton’s corner defence team were sent to halfway, before Hampstead worked the ball to the top of the D for Guise-Brown to fire goalwards, where it took a slight deflection to beat Gibson.

It could have been 2-0 as Sam French fired inches wide of the far post before the first break, but GB international Calnan won another corner early in the second period, which Richard Smith fired wide of the left post with Guise-Brown on the sidelines.

Toby Reynolds-Cotterill made a stunning stick save to deny player of the season Forsyth and preserve his side’s lead, as league champions Surbiton looked to get back on terms.

But a foul by Cargo handed Surbiton their first corner of the match, with Brendan Creed finding the net from close range, only for the goal to be ruled out by the umpires, who judged the ball had not come out of the D.

Martin played in Kei Kaeppeler on the right to win a corner for Hampstead, with Guise-Brown back on the pitch for this set-piece. But James Goole picked the resulting flick off the line and Calnan was thwarted by Gibson seconds later, before Surbiton went close through Dave Pickett.

James Oates was next to go close for Hampstead as the first half entered its closing stages, with Kaeppeler shown a green card.

But they doubled their lead in the third quarter with another stunning goal from leading scorer Guise-Brown, leaving Surbiton with a mountain to climb in the last 15 minutes.

They halved the deficit with just over eight minutes to go as a long aerial pass found Tom Sorsby on the left and he advanced into the D and played the ball into the net off Jonny Gooch.

Calnan had a chance to make it 3-1 almost immediately but Gibson made the save, and also denied Oates shortly after.

Hampstead had Mark Edwards to thank for a block on the line at a Surbiton corner, though, after Cargo had been penalised for another tackle.

And Reynold-Cotterill kept out a drive from Forsyth as the match entered the final three minutes.

Surbiton removed Gibson for a kicking-back, with two and a half minutes left, but history would not repeat itself and the move backfired as a long ball reached French, who kept his composure to find the vacated net for the third Hampstead goal.

It was a case of redemption for French, who had missed in the shoot-out a year earlier, and capped a superb day for Hampstead who, despite not getting the chance to defend their crowd this year, will still get another trip to the Euro Hockey League, all being well.