L1 Visit Clifton Robinsons on Saturday
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies visit Clifton Robinsons for a noon showdown at Coombe Dingle on Saturday as they resume their Vitality Women's Hockey League Top Six campaign.
Surbiton were without a fixture last week as East Grinstead were in Cambrai, France, winning the EuroHockey Indoor Trophy and earning promotion for Repton in 2024. The rearranged game at Saint Hill will take place on 4th March at 12 noon.
The trip to Bristol is part one of a weekend doubleheader for Surbiton as Beeston, who will visit Wimbledon on Saturday, travel to Sugden Road on Sunday (push back 2.30 pm).
Surbiton's lead at the top of the table was cut to five points as second placed Wimbledon won 1-0 at Coombe Dingle last Saturday, although Surbiton have the East Grinstead match in hand.
Since winning their three of their first four fixtures against Holcombe (H, 2-0); Reading (A, 2-1) and Beeston (H, 3-0), Clifton have only beaten Buckingham 3-0 at home in November, yet they earned creditable draws at home to East Grinstead (1-1) and at Wimbledon (2-2) and started 2023 with a 2-2 draw at Hampstead and Westminster to prove they are capable of competing with the top teams.
There have been setbacks, including two heavy defeats at the back end of 2022, when they lost 5-1 at Hampstead in November and 5-0 at Surbiton in December. Hannah Martin's brace, a penalty stroke from Giselle Ansley, and goals from Darcy Bourne and Sophie Hamilton contributed to Surbiton's biggest ever win over Clifton.
Surbiton and Clifton have met in the Premier Division since the 2012-13 season with Clifton only ever winning once, in March 2020 when Kathryn Lane scored the only goal of the game at Sugden Road.
Historically at Coombe Dingle, after the first match in October 2012 ended in a 1-1 draw, Surbiton won seven in a row in Bristol before being held to a 2-2 draw in the opening match of the 2021-22 season. Surbiton were back to winning ways in February 2022 with a 3-1 victory, followed up by a 3-0 home win in March.
Eloise Laity is Clifton's leading goalscorer with four goals with Amy Burton and Phoebe Richards both on three.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Beeston will hope to score a goal away to Wimbledon for the first time having lost 4-0 in March 2022 and 6-0 in October 2021. The first meeting in November at Nottingham Hockey Centre ended goalless although Beeston beat Wimbledon for the first time in March 2022, when they won 3-1.
Third-placed Hampstead & Westminster host fourth-placed East Grinstead at Paddington Recreation Ground with both teams locked together on 24 points, four behind second-placed Wimbledon. Hampstead won both home meetings in 2021-22, 3-1 in April and 3-2 in September, but the first meeting this season ended in a 2-2 draw in West Sussex.
In the Lower Six, leaders Loughborough Students head to bottom club, Buckingham, where they have lost on all three previous Premier Division meetings since Loughborough were promoted for the 2019-20 season. Loughborough won 2-0 at home in November.
Second-placed Reading are at home to the University of Nottingham, where Reading won 4-2 in November.
The University of Birmingham, who missed the chance to close the gap between themselves and Reading last week after losing 2-1 at home to the University of Nottingham, travel to Holcombe, where they are still waiting for their first win. Between 2015-16 and 2019-20, Birmingham contrived to lose 3-1 in five successive visits and the other three games at Holcombe Park ended in draws.