Premier Survival Specialists
Purley held onto their Premier status with a 10-7 win over contenders Maidstone in tense play-off game to end the SEMLA season.
The former giants of the South were facing their 2nd survival match-up in three seasons but they dug deep to see off the spirited challenge.
It was the first sporting showdown of Super Saturday that finished with the Mayweather-Pacquio billion dollar dust-up in the Vegas desert in the early hours of the following morning.
The knock-out blow came from four goal burst in seven third quarter minutes gave Purley the impetus to snuff out the East 1 Red Wolves who had taken the early spoils and looked genuine Premiership material.
The Prem contenders lead 3-1 at the end of Q1 and then got the first of the second half to go 4-2 up as Purley wobbled despite having a string of shooting opportunities. But the purple goal rush with two strikes from Tom Hatton, and efforts from Harrison Parr and Matt Payne got them out of trouble.
Maidstone left everything on the pitch and will feel they are closing in on top-flight status and should take credit from getting there in seven seasons and forming a 2nd and 3rd team along the way.
Purley started brightly dominating possession and Parr opened the scoring after six minutes with a crisp shot after sustained pressure. Shots rained in but too few on target and slowly Maidstone got into the game with some bustling breaks lead by midfield powerhouse Hugh Mitchison.
They equalised on 12 minutes after breaking down a clear and capitalizing on the broken play with dangerman attacker Travis Gibbons finishing it off.
Gibbons then fed Mitchison with enough space up top to send a guided missile flashing into the top right corner for the lead four minutes later.
It was 3-1 when Gibbons then fed Sam Perry whose intelligent cut had delivered the space and time for a cool finish close-in.
Both keepers showed their class with multiple saves from some heavy artillery and on the doorstep blocks to increase the tension jangling through both sides.
Matt O’Leary had to be sharp to save as Gibbons barreled round the post and shot and then Dave Slaughter’s timely take-away a minute later kept Purley alive.
Red Wolves keeper Eliot Pugh then pulled off three Premier class saves during a man-up but could do nothing when Purley eventually worked the space for Hatton to connect with Payne who dunked it on the crease.
Mitchison hit the bar with another pile-driver but the lack of pattern helped veteran Andy Booth settle the Purley defence and orchestrate tight coverage followed by clinical clears.
With only one goal in it, the momentum tilt was in Purley’s favour. That changed from the re-start as they lost control of the ground ball and Gibbons was able to swim dodge past a challenge and fire home. 4-2 Red Wolves.
Maidstone were making the better decisions and had been getting the better of the ground work but a huge hustle from Purley’s Latvian international LSM Kaspars Veips to reclaim a seemingly lost possession lit the touch paper.
Five minutes in, Parr blazed down the right and into the danger zone, drew the slide before dishing it to Mike Barrett who finished close in. A period of patient possession, which dislocated the Maidstone defence and the excellent Pugh, for the first time gave Parr enough of a gap to laser a shot home.
Purley took the lead when O’Leary took a clear beyond half way before hitting Hatton who raced past the defence for a textbook run and gun shot.
With a minute he had his second as he threaded a thunderbolt through the tightest of gaps. And Maidstone were reeling when Purley’s sharp passing culminated with another clear shooting line for Payne who converted for a 7-4 lead.
Maidstone were now chasing the game and Purley struck again early on to give them breathing space with a defensive slip punished by a quick pass to Justin Baronowski who finished from point blank.
With Joe Burnett ordering his defensive troops and putting the pressure on, the Red Wolves roared back and Gibbons hit the bar but as the broken play raced back, Payne found Baronowski unmarked on the crease for his second and a 9-4 lead.
The Kent side wasn’t done yet and blazed back in the final 10 minutes with Rob Telfer and Jesse O’Hanley grabbing goals to make it 9-6 with six minutes to go.
Telfer then glided past his man on a perfect arc to unleash a powerful drive across goal and it was 9-7.
Parr was quarter-backing the Purley possession under intense heat and after three frantic minutes when both teams laid it on the line, he was able to wriggle into enough space to score to seal the victory.
Q Scores: 1-3 / 2-3 / 4-7 / 7-10
Purley: Goal: Mat O'Leary; Defence: Andy Booth, Dara McCreary, Dave Slaughter, Kaspars 'Stripes' Veips; Midfield: Mike Barrett (2), Andy Fernando, Tom Hatton (2), Harrison Parr (2), Chase Stuart; Attack: Justin Baranowski (2), Mylo Johnstone, Matt Payne (2)
Maidstone scorers: Travis Gibbons 2, Rob Telfer 2, Hugh Mitchison, Jesse O’Hanley, Sam Perry