L1 Host University Of Nottingham On Saturday
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies meet the University of Nottingham for the first time when the East Midlands students travel to Elmbridge on Saturday for a 4 pm push back at Sugden Road.
The University of Nottingham are in their fourth season in the Vitality Women's Hockey League and by a strange quirk of fixtures, are due to play their first Premier Division match outside of Nottingham Hockey Centre, even though Saturday's match will be Nottingham's second away game of the season.
Nottingham started their season with a trip across the Nottingham Hockey Centre car park, from Pitch 4 to Pitch 1, where they drew 2-2 with very near neighbours, Beeston, Merle Knobloch converting a 69th minute penalty corner to earn a point after Beeston led 2-0 through Lauren Burrell and Rosy Stephens. Maddie Axford had the honour of scoring the University's first ever top flight goal.
Last Saturday, it was Nottingham's turn to lose a two goal advantage at home to the University of Birmingham. This time, Knobloch gave Nottingham the lead, with Grace O'Malley Kumar giving the hosts a 2-0 lead at the interval. Birmingham stormed back, Hannah Pearce, Betsan Thomas, Sarah Spooner and Delyth Thomas all scoring in the second half to clinch a 4-2 victory.
Nottingham won the Conference North, winning all 17 of their games before the 2019-20 season was curtailed with one round of matches still to be played. The even shorter 2020-21 season proved to be a mini-nightmare for the students as they played three matches before the season was initially suspended and then declared null and void, losing all three, including a frustrating 1-0 loss against Gloucester City, who scored in the last minute.
Nottingham were back on devastating form in 2021-22, cruising to the Division One North title by winning 17 and drawing one match to earn automatic promotion along with the Division One South champions, Reading.
Meanwhile Surbiton go into Saturday's match level on points with Clifton Robinsons as the only two teams to have won their first two matches of the season. Surbiton are also yet to concede a goal after a 5-0 win at Loughborough Students and a 3-0 home win over East Grinstead, with Sophie Hamilton leading the Premier Division goalscorer chart with four goals including a hat-trick at Loughborough.
Clifton Robinsons won 2-0 at home to Holcombe and 2-1 at Reading, to win their first two games of the season for the first time since 2016-17. Clifton head to the University of Birmingham where they last played in November 2019, winning 1-0. Former Surbiton player, Erica Sanders scored four goals in a match twice against Clifton in 2015 and 2018.
Hampstead & Westminster face a London derby against Wimbledon, but have only hosted the South London club once in the Premier Division, last March when Wimbledon won 1-0. Partially because of last season's split format, Wimbledon have been at home three times, but are the only team to have won at home, with the other three matches won by the visiting team.
The teams also met in the Conference East before they found their way up to the Premier Division.
East Grinstead travel to Loughborough Students where they won 6-0 on their only previous visit in February 2020. Earlier in the season, Loughborough had beaten East Grinstead 5-1 in West Sussex, but weren't so successful last season when they lost 4-1 in Phase One.
Buckingham look for their first points of the season as they travel to Holcombe, having first lost 5-0 at Hampstead and 2-1 at home to Beeston last weekend. Holcombe came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at home to Hampstead & Westminster to gain their first point following their opening day loss to Clifton Robinsons.
Reading travel to Beeston, a week after their men lost 2-1 there and go to Nottingham Hockey Centre for the first time since November 2014, when they won 5-0. The only other meeting ended 3-0 to Reading the season before and because Beeston were in the Conference North and Reading were in either the Conference West or Division One South when one or neither team was in the Premier Division, Saturday's meeting will be on their third ever in the East Midlands.