Surbiton Men, having to cope without several international players, play Beeston in the first of three potentially key league matches at Nottingham Hockey Centre on Saturday night (push back 6 pm).

With a home clash against current league leaders and London rivals, Hampstead & Westminster to come next Saturday (3 October) and a visit to Holcombe the week after, the next three games could decide which teams will be in the driving seat as the season starts to hot up.

The Men’s Hockey League Premier Division table is showing signs of splitting with the top four teams separated by just three points, yet fourth and fifth with a six point gap after just five games.

Beeston, currently in fourth, suffered their only defeat at Hampstead & Westminster in week 3, losing 2-1. The other four games have all ended in victory, a 4-0 win over Sevenoaks followed up by a 3-1 win at East Grinstead. Following the defeat at Hampstead, Beeston bounced back to win 3-0 at home to the University of Exeter before coming back from the North West with a 3-2 win at Brooklands Manchester University.

Beeston may have lost Sam Ward to Old Georgians, but Gareth Griffiths and Elliot Hibell are joint leading goalscorers with three goals and Chris Proctor, Nick Park and Richard Lawrence have all succeeded in scoring twice. Henry Croft and Mark Gleghorne have also scored this season.

Both of last season’s regular season matches were relative goal fests, with Surbiton winning 5-4 at Sugden Road and Surbiton winning 5-2 in Nottingham

The teams also met in the MHL Championship semi-final at Lee Valley Surbiton winning 2-1

Surbiton have won on their last four visits to Beeston and will be hoping to keep the winning run going in advance of their matches with Hampstead, and Holcombe.

Elsewhere, Hampstead & Westminster host Holcombe, not at Paddington Recreation Ground but at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, in an eagerly anticipated top of the table clash. East Grinstead host Sevenoaks; and Reading are at home to Wimbledon, all on Saturday. On Sunday, the University of Exeter entertain Brooklands Manchester University in what is already looking as a key bottom of the table clash.