L1 Need Point To Clinch Title At East Grinstead
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies can clinch their eighth successive Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division title with a point when they travel to East Grinstead on Saturday (push back 4 pm).
If Hampstead & Westminster fail to beat Beeston earlier on Saturday afternoon, Surbiton will start the match as confirmed champions, otherwise a point would suffice.
Surbiton have won 2-1 in West Sussex already this season, coming from behind to claim all three points in November. East Grinstead suffered their largest ever national league defeat in the reverse fixture in February when Surbiton won 6-0, to avenge a 6-1 hammering at Saint Hill in 2020 before Covid struck.
With England women unable to travel to India for their FIH Pro League fixtures this weekend, the match should see the top two scorers in the Premier Division: East Grinstead's Sophie Bray on 18 and Surbiton's Darcy Bourne on 17, come face to face. Bourne scored a hat-trick in the 6-0 thrashing and Bray has not yet scored against Surbiton this season, as Robyn Bentley was East Grinstead's scorer in their 2-1 home defeat.
However, Surbiton will be without Maddie Long, who started in England's 3-0 win over hosts, South Africa in the Junior World Cup on Friday, having scored four goals this season in the Premier Division and making her final appearance for Surbiton in the 2-0 home defeat to Hampstead & Westminster before going to university next season.
East Grinstead, currently challenging with Hampstead and Wimbledon for the second European qualification place, saw their league title hopes evaporate over the last two weeks with defeats at home to Beeston (3-2) and at Clifton Robinsons (3-1).
Ellie Rayer is East Grinstead's second top scorer with nine goals and Autumn Bowden on four. Chloe Palmer, now in Australia, scored three and Chloe Brown scored twice. The remaining goals were shared between Fatin Sukri, Nuraini Rashid, Lydia Macdonell, Eliza Wheeler, Jo Westwood, Laura Unsworth, Guadalupe Fernandez Lacort and Alex Malzer.
Hampstead took advantage of East Grinstead's defeat and Wimbledon's 3-1 loss at Beeston to move into second place on 37 points, one ahead of East Grinstead and two ahead of fourth-placed Wimbledon in the race to join Surbiton in Europe.
Wimbledon are at home to Clifton Robinsons, having beaten the Bristol club 2-1 on both occasions they visited Coombe Dingle.
In the Bottom 5, the now single relegation issue has been settled with Swansea returning to Division One after losing twice to the University of Birmingham, so only final finishing positions are now at stake.
Swansea visit Holcombe and the University of Birmingham are at home to Buckingham.