Surbiton Ladies became the latest team to fail to hold on to top spot in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division, dropping to third after being held to a 1-1 home draw by East Grinstead. Holcombe are the new leaders following their 4-1 home win over Slough on Saturday evening, taking over from Clifton Robinsons who temporarily returned to the top after their 2-1 home win over Bowdon Hightown on Saturday afternoon. Surbiton had gone top following a 5-0 win at Bowdon Hightown the previous week, but found East Grinstead, who started the day in third place a tougher proposition. East Grinstead included Olympic Gold medalist Laura Unsworth in their squad, and after absorbing some early pressure, posed an attacking threat of their own although the Surbiton defence coped.
A sweeping passing move out of defence culminated in the opening goal in the tenth minute, Jenna Woolven scoring her first goal of the season to put Surbiton ahead. For the first time since its installation, Surbiton’s electronic scoreboard recorded a home first team taking a 1-0 lead at the fourth attempt. Surbiton’s Jo Hunter posed a frequent threat with attacking runs, but the home team couldn’t finish in the circle partly due to visiting goalkeeper Kirsty Mackay and a well organised defence. East Grinstead forced three penalty corners in a row from the 25th minute, the original award originally given as a penalty stroke before the umpires consulted and changed the decision. Nine minutes later, Surbiton had the same experience, initially being awarded a penalty stroke before the award was amended to a penalty corner, from which the ball sped narrowly past the right post.
With rain falling at half time and the floodlights switched on under darkened skies for the second half, the game became a scrappy encounter, with defences on top in spite of both teams having attacking intentions. Surbiton had four penalty corner awards in the second half and will have to work on their injection trapping having had two of the injections mis-trapped and recovered beyond the circle. Three minutes from time, East Grinstead were awarded their only penalty corner of the second half and took full advantage, Alice Pyrgos’s shot ending up in the top right corner of the net, cruelly ending young Surbiton goalkeeper, Louisa Bray’s hopes of a second consecutive clean sheet. The goal was East Grinstead’s first penalty corner conversion of the season. A minute later, Surbiton had to finish the game with ten players after Robyn Collins saw yellow.
Nevertheless Surbiton eagerly sought a late winner, however the East Grinstead defence held out with honours left even with a 1-1 score line for a second successive season. Holcombe’s win takes them to ten points and a single point lead over Clifton Robinsons,with Surbiton and East Grinstead locked together in third and fourth respectively on eight points. The University of Birmingham missed out on the chance to move back up the table after suffering a surprise 1-0 home defeat to Leicester, who won with their first goal of the season in four games. Canterbury can move up to fifth if they beat bottom club Reading at Sonning Lane on Sunday (push back 12.3o pm).
Surbiton travel to Canterbury next Saturday (push back 2 pm).
Surbiton: Bray (GK); King, Collins, Sharp, Haycroft (Capt.), Defroand, Twigg, Middleton, Hunter, Page, Martin.
Subs: Woolven, Chilton, Atkinson, Robinson, Petter