L1 Visit Buckingham On Saturday
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies travel to Stowe School for a noon showdown with Buckingham on Saturday.
Both teams go into the match with contrasting form, Surbiton with maximum points from three games and Buckingham having lost all three of their matches, although with Reading also looking for their first point and both Loughborough Students and the University of Nottingham on one point, Buckingham still have all to play for.
Surbiton last visited Stowe School in February 2020 when they came away from Buckinghamshire with all three points thanks to a 5-2 victory, Erica Sanders scoring twice supported by Susie Catlin, Holly Payne and Hannah Martin. Natasha James and Lottie Porter replied for Buckingham, who fared better in October 2021 when they salvaged a point in a 2-2 draw. Abbie Brant and Jo Ellis-Day scored for Buckingham after Sophie Hamilton and Eloise Stenner seemed to have earned all three points with both teams scoring in the last five minutes.
Buckingham then lost their next seven matches which saw them drop into the Bottom 5 section for the second half of the season, although they won six of their last seven games to finish eighth.
Buckingham's poor form has returned in the 2022-23 season, suffering a 5-0 opening day defeat at Hampstead & Westminster before losing 2-1 at home to Beeston and a 3-1 defeat at Holcombe last weekend.
Rebecca van Arrowsmith and Ellis-Day have been on target for Buckingham this season, but if they want to qualify for the Top Six this season, their form will have to improve soon.
Surbiton and Buckingham clashes go back to their South Clubs' Women's Hockey League days when they first met in Division Two in 2006-07. They met four times before Buckingham won promotion in 2007-08, Surbiton winning once at Sugden Road in 2006-07 when current BBC reporter, Katie Shanahan scored twice from the penalty spot. The corresponding fixture in 2007-08 saw Buckingham celebrate promotion after completing a grand slam of league victories, coming from 2-0 down to win 5-2 for their eighteenth victory of the season, having won 8-2 in the first match at Stowe School.
Surbiton were more successful in Women's Cup matches before Surbiton won 3-1 at Stowe School on their first two top flight visits, both in 2015. Buckingham spent the 2016-17 season in the Conference West before beating Surbiton twice at Stowe School on their return to the Premier Division. A late goal from Abbie Brant earned a 1-0 win in March 2018 and then in February 2019, Buckingham fought back after Jenna Woolven put Surbiton ahead, James and Phoebe Richards earning a 2-1 home win.
Surbiton carry a two point lead into the fourth round of fixtures, ahead of both Beeston and Wimbledon. Beeston travel to Clifton Robinsons, who were Surbiton's nearest challengers before they lost 2-1 at the University of Birmingham last Saturday. Beeston have won on their last two visits to Coombe Dingle.
Wimbledon visit the University of Birmingham for the first time ever for a Premier Division match, a quirk of the fixtures since Wimbledon's promotion in 2019-20, setting the initial fixture in South London with the suspension of the 2020-21 season and Birmingham's failure to qualify for the Top 6 preventing a return fixture in the West Midlands. Wimbledon last played Birmingham away in February 2006 in the old Division One.
East Grinstead will be hoping to maintain their record of beating Hampstead & Westminster on home turf when the London club visit West Sussex on Saturday. The teams have met twice with East Grinstead winning 3-0 and 2-1, although Hampstead won 3-1 in London back in April.
Reading, who have found the Premier Division tough going after promotion last season, welcome Holcombe to Sonning Lane for the first time since Sep 2016, when current Surbiton player, Leah Wilkinson scored in a 5-2 win. Wilkinson also scored in the 4-0 return victory in Kent when Reading were on their way to relegation.
Loughborough Students are the latest team to take on the University of Nottingham in their first ever meeting at National League level. With both teams only having a point each to show from their first three matches, both teams have the opportunity to pull away from the bottom of the table.