L1 Host Hampstead On Sunday
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies complete Phase 2 of the Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division when they host Hampstead & Westminster at 2 pm on Sunday at Sugden Road.
Surbiton won the regular season Premier Division with a 4-1 home win over Beeston last Sunday and celebrated with a stunning 8-2 win at East Grinstead on Saturday.
Hampstead cannot finish higher than third and can only be caught by East Grinstead if the West Sussex club win at Wimbledon and Hampstead lose at Surbiton with East Grinstead overturning an eleven inferior goal difference.
Surbiton won 2-0 at Paddington Recreation Ground in November with Steph Elliott and Sophie Hamilton on the scoresheet.
Hampstead surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Beeston two weeks ago, having won 3-0 in Nottingham in December. The Beeston defeat is the only game Hampstead have lost since they lost to Surbiton with their only other defeat coming at home to Wimbledon in October when they lost 3-1.
Hampstead have won three games and drawn three away from home whilst Surbiton have won all eight home games, just conceding two goals.
Hampstead won on their last visit to Sugden Road in March 2022, Grace Balsdon and Lucy Hyams both scoring in a 2-0 win. That is Hampstead's only win in six games since they won promotion to the Premier Division via the Promotion Tournament after winning the Conference East in 2018-19.
The games have generally been close with Surbiton winning 3-2 in November 2021 at home and at Paddington Recreation Ground in February 2020. Surbiton's other victories were 3-1 at home in November 2019 and 4-2 at Paddington Rec in March 2022.
Anna O'Flanagan and Grace Balsdon are Hampstead's joint leading goalscorers this season with seven goals, with excellent support from Holly Hunt, Lauren Hunt, Sarah Robertson and Lauren Turner all on four goals. Melanie Wilkinson has netted three goals with Jasmine Clark and Lily Owsley scoring twice and Olivia Hamilton, Jo Leigh and Lucy Hyams.
For the third weekend running, Surbiton matches feature family members facing each other on opposite sides with Gareth Furlong (Surbiton) and Rhodri Furlong (Holcombe) having met on 18 February; Giselle Ansley (Surbiton) and Carmen Ansley (Clifton Robinson) facing each other last weekend and Sophie Hamilton (Surbiton) competing against Olivia Hamilton (Hampstead and Westminster) on Sunday.
Wimbledon, who trail Surbiton by ten points as of Saturday, are guaranteed second place as they welcome East Grinstead to Raynes Park High School, in a fixture where both teams have won one and lost one at each other's venue. Hollie Pearne-Webb scored the only goal in South West London in November.
Beeston and Clifton Robinsons meet each other at Nottingham Hockey Centre with both teams assured of a fifth and sixth place finish respectively. Clifton won 3-0 in Bristol back in October, however, Clifton will be aiming for their first win away to Beeston since February 2015 when they won 3-0. Since then, Beeston won three home meetings in a row until the teams drew 3-3 in April 2022.
In the Lower Six, there is all to play for in trying to earn a top two place to qualify for the Playoffs round in Phase 3. University of Nottingham lead Loughborough Students by a single point and are at home to Buckingham, having won 8-3 on Pitch 4 at Nottingham Hockey Centre in October.
Loughborough Students are at home to Holcombe. Loughborough won 2-1 at Holcombe Park in November whilst Holcombe will want to bounce back from a nightmare weekend when they lost 1-0 to the University of Birmingham and 6-1 to the University of Nottingham, both at home.
The University of Birmingham are at home to Reading with both teams hoping that the Top Two teams slip up. Reading haven't travelled to Birmingham for a Premier Division match since October 2016 when they lost 6-2 on their way to relegation. Reading won 4-1 at Sonning Lane in October 2022.