L1 Host East Grinstead On Saturday
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies take on East Grinstead in a top of the table clash at Sugden Road on Saturday (push back 1.30 pm).
Surbiton won 1-0 at Wimbledon last Saturday, thanks to Steph Elliott's late penalty corner conversion to open up a one point lead at the top of the Vitality Women's Hockey League Top Six table over East Grinstead, who recovered from a 3-0 home defeat against Wimbledon the previous week to beat Hampstead & Westminster 3-0 in West Sussex.
East Grinstead won for the first time at Sugden Road on their last visit in October 2020, Hannah Cozens scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory, but Surbiton were triumphant the last time the teams met at Saint Hill in November last year, Leah Wilkinson's brace enough to overcome Robyn Bentley's goal for a 2-1 win.
In Phase One, East Grinstead started with a 4-1 win over Loughborough Students before Hampstead & Westminster, starting out on what was to be a run of nine successive wins, won 3-2 in London.
East Grinstead then went on their own six game winning streak, winning 2-1 at Beeston; 4-1 at home to Swansea; 2-0 at Holcombe; 2-1 at home to Wimbledon; 7-0 at the University of Birmingham and 3-2 at Buckingham before Surbiton stopped their run in a game rearranged from October when Surbiton and East Grinstead were both competing in Europe.
Phase One was completed with a 6-1 home win over Clifton Robinsons and East Grinstead won 2-1 at Beeston in their first match of Phase Two before the recent defeat to Wimbledon and victory over Hampstead.
Sophie Bray leads the way for East Grinstead with eleven goals so far this campaign, Ellie Rayer not far behind on eight. Bentley has scored five goals so far with Autumn Bowden on four. Chloe Palmer accounted for three with Chloe Brown on two. Lydia Macdonell, Fatim Sukri, Eliza Wheeler, jo Westwood and Nuraini Rashid have all scored once to prove East Grinstead have a wide range of attacking threats to counter.
Meanwhile, Surbiton, who were missing Sophie Hamilton, Darcy Bourne and Sabbie Heesh at Wimbledon are still unbeaten in the Premier Division this season, with nine wins and four draws.
Hampstead & Westminster who have dropped to third, three points behind Surbiton after leading by nine points at one point, albeit having played two games more, visit Beeston, where Hampstead played their first ever Premier Division match in September 2019.
East Grinstead played their first Premier Division match at Sugden Road in September 2015, drawing 1-1. After a second successive 1-1 draw the following season, Surbiton won the next three before East Grinstead's historic victory in 2020.
Fourth-placed Wimbledon travel to Bristol to play sixth-placed Clifton Robinsons, needing a win to stay in contention for a top two finish and European qualification next season. Wimbledon are currently five points behind Surbiton.
In the Bottom Five, Buckingham and Swansea both return from European indoor action. Buckingham travel to Holcombe and Swansea are at home to Loughborough Students, whilst it's the University of Birmingham's turn to have the first of two bye weeks.