Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

SURBITON 11 CANTERBURY

Scorer: Beckie Middleton 53-F
Squad: Georgie Twigg (Capt.), Emily Atkinson, Alessia Robinson, Olivia Chilton, Natalie Maclean, Beckie Middleton, Sarah Page, Holly Payne, Izzy Petter, Anabel Herzsprung, Ellie Shahbo (GK).

Subs: Stephanie Addison (10″), Darcy Bourne (11″), Adrienne Houle (11″), Ella Burnley (18″).

Umpires: David Howell and Helen Sargeant

Match Official: Thea Hitchcock

Surbiton Ladies saw their lead at the top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division cut to one point after Canterbury earned a much needed point at Sugden Road on Saturday afternoon.

Before the match a minute’s silence was held in memory of former Club Captain and President, Mark Rye, who passed away earlier this week.

Canterbury extended their unbeaten run to six games, including four successive draws but with the four teams at the bottom of the table all drawing, the Kent club remain one point adrift of ninth placed Leicester.

With six players in the Great Britain squad in Rosario, Argentina for a five test series, Surbiton gave a league debut to Australian signing Alessia Robinson in a fifteen player squad.

Canterbury also brought fifteen players to Elmbridge and in wet conditions, Surbiton, wearing their change strip of green shirts and white skorts forced an early penalty corner, Natalie Maclean forcing an early save from visiting goalkeeper, Helen Fagg. Canterbury immediately made a breakaway attack, but failed to take full advantage.

Sarah Page, Holly Payne and Anabel Herzsprung combined well but Canterbury’s well-organised defence, which continually pressurised the Surbiton forwards before winning back possession, held out.

A second manoeuvred penalty corner routine saw Robinson’s shot blocked in the seventh minute, whilst three minutes later, Olivia Chilton won possession in the Canterbury 23 only for the visiting defenders to recover.

Canterbury won a penalty corner in the 23rd minute, Grace Balsdon, whose last minute penalty stroke had earned a 2-2 draw at Polo Farm on the opening day of the season, found the backboard to give the relegation threatened visitors a surprise lead over the league leaders.

Both Sarah Kerly and Mel Clewlow made important defensive plays in the first half to maintain Canterbury’s 1-0 lead at half time.

Early in the second half, Beckie Middleton shot past the right post and Page forced a save from Fagg as Surbiton sought a quick equaliser. Middleton duly obliged in the 42nd minute with a spectacular overhead finish which saw the ball neatly deflected into the roof of the net out of Fagg’s reach.

Their tails up, Surbiton went on the attack to find a second goal, but as in the first half, Canterbury’s defence worked hard to restrict the hosts’ scoring opportunities. Canterbury also had their chances to clinch a much needed win, including a 48th minute penalty corner which saw Clewlow’s shot defended.

With defences largely on top, the game ended level, Canterbury drawing 1-1 for the third time in succession following draws at home to Leicester and at Clifton Robinsons.

The University of Birmingham closed the gap to one point thanks to Erica Sanders’ fifth minute goal at Bowdon Hightown.

Holcombe moved up to third, four points behind Surbiton, also with a 1-0 win at home to East Grinstead, Joanne Westwood scoring in the last minute.

There was also late drama at Buckingham as Leicester fought back from 2-0 down with two minutes to play to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw. Abbie Brant and Eloise Laity gave Buckingham a 2-0 half time lead, but Nikki Laybourne and Kathryn Lane levelled to help the East Midlands club stay ninth.

Clifton Robinsons and Slough, who have both struggled with their form over recent matches, battled to a goalless draw in Bristol.

Surbiton turn their attention to knockout competition action on Sunday when they host St. Albans in the England Hockey Women’s Tier 1 Competition (push back 11.30 am). St. Albans are seventh in the IWHL Conference East  and beat Southgate 3-0 at Oaklands College on Saturday.