L1 Visit East Grinstead On Sunday
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies visit East Grinstead on Sunday in a key Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division match (push back 1.30 pm at Saint Hill).
The match was postponed from 2 October because both teams were participating in European competition.
On Saturday, East Grinstead closed the gap behind leaders Hampstead & Westminster to six points with a game in hand after coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Buckingham.
Surbiton's 3-1 win at Holcombe kept them two points behind third placed Wimbledon with two games in hand after Wimbledon also won, 2-1 at Clifton Robinsons.
An East Grinstead win would take them to within three points of Hampstead with one round of matches left, whilst a Surbiton win would see them move above Wimbledon and level on points with East Grinstead. If Surbiton won by three goals at Saint Hill, they would move into second on goal difference.
However victory at East Grinstead is not going to be an easy task and the West Sussex club will be confident having won the last two matches with Surbiton, 6-1 at Saint Hill in 2019-20 and 1-0 at Sugden Road in last season's shortened campaign.
East Grinstead have been almost as dominant as Hampstead this season, their only defeat coming at Hampstead (3-2) back in September, and but for Ellie Rayer's missed penalty stroke in the last minute, they could even have salvaged a point.
A 4-1 win at home to Loughborough Students on opening day was followed by the defeat, but East Grinstead have won the next six: 2-1 at Beeston; 4-1 at home to Swansea; 2-0 at Holcombe; 2-1 at home to Wimbledon and 7-0 at the University of Birmingham.
Sophie Bray is East Grinstead's leading goalscorer with nine goals, Ellie Rayer giving excellent support with six. Autumn Bowden is now on four, with Chloe Palmer on three. Fatin Sukri, Nuraini Rashid, Chloe Brown and Robyn Bentley have all netted once.
East Grinstead's two victories above are their only Premier Division wins against Surbiton since they were promoted to the top flight for the 2015-16 season. Surbiton were their first opponents and current player Palmer stopped East Grinstead winning their first fixture after Takara Haines had scored for East Grinstead, the first match ending 1-1.
After a second successive 1-1 draw, Surbiton won their next three home meetings before East Grinstead's 1-0 victory.
At Saint Hill, Surbiton won the first three meetings, curiously all by a 2-0 scoreline before a 1-1 draw on their fourth visit. East Grinstead's 6-1 thrashing is Surbiton's heaviest ever defeat in the Vitality Women's Hockey League.