Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division – 24 March 2018
BUCKINGHAM 1–0 SURBITON
Squad: Georgie Twigg (Capt.), Emily Atkinson, Alessia Robinson, Olivia Chilton, Beckie Middleton, Lucy Holder, Holly Payne, Alice Sharp, Ella Burnley, Anabel Herzsprung, Ellie Shahbo (GK).
Subs: Sarah Page (5″), Stephanie Addison (9″), Darcy Bourne (12″), Adrienne Houle (20″).
Umpires: Gemma Jones and Rebecca Woodcock
Match Official: Annie Hairsine
Surbiton Ladies will have to wait until Sunday to discover whether they will finish top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division for the fourth season running after slipping to defeat at Buckingham, conceding a penalty corner conversion in added on time at the end of the match.
Surbiton were on course to earn the point they needed to confirm a first place finish, but Buckingham’s leading goalscorer, Abbie Brant broke Surbiton hearts to keep Buckingham in contention for a top four finish.
Holcombe, Surbiton’s nearest rivals will need to beat Canterbury by at least eight goals in Sunday’s local derby to pip Surbiton to top spot and guaranteed European hockey. Holcombe kept up the pressure with a 2-1 win at the University of Birmingham, a result which enabled Buckingham to close the gap to fourth placed Birmingham to one point. Buckingham are at home to Bowdon Hightown and Birmingham host Slough on Sunday. Birmingham’s goal came from Erica Sanders who joined Surbiton’s Giselle Ansley on eleven goals for the season.
If Birmingham beat Slough, Buckingham can still qualify for the playoffs if they beat Bowdon Hightown by six goals and replace East Grinstead in the top four.
On a murky day at Stowe School, more reminiscent of a dull winter’s day than the last scheduled day of the league season, both Surbiton and Buckingham were without several international players due to Commonwealth Games duty. Surbiton missed six England and one Scottish international, whilst Buckingham were without the Welsh contingent of four players.
Surbiton began brightly, Alessia Robinson just failing to give the visitors a first minute lead, and Alice Sharp and Lucy Holder combining well.
The game was briefly suspended in the third minute due to an injury to umpire Rebecca Woodcock but after assessment by the Surbiton physio, she was able to resume her duties.
Both teams played attacking hockey but defences were on top with young goalkeepers Ellie Shahbo (Surbiton) and Daisy Hacking (Buckingham) making good saves.
Surbiton’s Lucy Holder was denied by Hacking following a one on one opportunity and Buckingham’s Abbie Brant forced a save towards the end of a first half which ended goalless.
Both teams continued to play attacking hockey in the second half, but Surbiton were to rue their failure to convert penalty corners, having seven opportunities to break the deadlock.
Adrienne Houle had an open play shot blocked and Sarah Page shot past the right post as Surbiton created scoring chances but failed to take them.
Buckingham’s real threat was their penalty corner routine, which had been proved in the first meeting at Sugden Road when both goals came late in the game from set pieces.
Buckingham didn’t force a penalty corner until the 58th minute, when Shahbo made a stunning save. With three minutes to play and Buckingham desperately seeking the win which would keep their playoff hopes alive, goalkeeper, Hacking was taken off with Rebecca van Berkel coming on as a kicking back.
Surbiton also suffered a double penalty setback when first Page was shown a green card and Anabel Herzsprung was shown yellow to set up the dramatic finale.
Buckingham forced a second penalty corner with the whistle blown before the injection was made. Brant did the rest to recreate the scenes when Leicester ended Surbiton’s 53 game unbeaten run last season in similar style. Brant scored her ninth goal of the season and fourth penalty corner conversion to leave Buckingham all to play for in their final league game of the season.
Buckingham therefore completed the league double over Surbiton with both winning goals coming from last minute penalty corner.
The relegation battle is also due to go to a last day decider. Both Clifton Robinsons and Leicester, who had failed to win since October, won to keep up their hopes of avoiding relegation. Leicester won 2-1 at Bowdon Hightown and Clifton won 2-0 at East Grinstead. Leicester stay bottom two points below Canterbury, Clifton Robinsons and Slough. Slough dropped to ninth after a 1-1 draw at Canterbury. Leicester host Clifton Robinsons in a key matchup as it will be decided which team will be automatically relegated and which team will play the three Conference winners in the Promotion Tournament.
Surbiton are next due to visit Hampstead and Westminster in the England Hockey Women’s Tier One Tournament quarter-final on 8 April The winners will be at home to either Bowdon Hightown or Brooklands Poynton in the semi-final. Bowdon and Brooklands will have to replay their quarter-final as after drawing 2-2 in normal time and with the stroke barrage level at 4-4, the floodlights switched off due to a timer issue.