M1 Host Wimbledon On Saturday Evening
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Men are at home to Wimbledon in the Men's Hockey League Premier Division Top Six on Saturday evening (push back 6 pm) in the first match of a double header weekend at Sugden Road.
Surbiton also face Hampstead & Westminster on Sunday afternoon at 4.30 pm over an important weekend for all three teams.
Old Georgians are eight points clear of second-placed Surbiton with Hampstead in third, three points behind Surbiton with Wimbledon a point further back in fourth. Wimbledon and Hampstead both have a game in hand over Surbiton and that match will be played on 4 March.
Wimbledon v Hampstead was due to take place last week, but although the EuroHockey Indoor Cup in Alanya, Turkey was postponed due to the crisis in the country, the postponement was too late to allow the fixture to be reinstated on its original date.
As Wimbledon retained their Super 6s title at the Copper Box in January, they will have another opportunity to compete in Europe in 2024.
Surbiton beat Holcombe 3-2 last week whilst Wimbledon lost 3-2 at home to Holcombe in their first match of 2023.
3-2 was also the score when Surbiton travelled to Raynes Park High School in November, when Ed Horler and Rhys Smith twice gave Wimbledon the lead. Alex Williams equalised for Surbiton first, before Gareth Furlong and Luke Taylor both scored in the last ten minutes to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory.
Generally, Wimbledon have been very consistent with eight wins in twelve games, only dropping points in a 2-2 draw at Holcombe and defeats at Old Georgians plus at home to Holcombe and at Surbiton.
Ed Horler is Wimbledon's leading goalscorer with eleven, supported by Sam Hooper on six and former Surbiton player, Liam Ansell on five.
Wimbledon have had a better record against Surbiton in Elmbridge than in South West London although their last victory came in March 2020 when Phil Roper's hat-trick gave them a 3-1 away win.
Surbiton won 5-1 at Sugden Road in April 2022, but a month earlier, there was a memorable 5-5 draw at Raynes Park High School which was an excellent definition of a competitive local derby.
Old Georgians also have an evening home game against Hampstead & Westminster, the only team to take points of them this season, Hampstead having drawn 2-2 at St. George's College in October. Hampstead won 3-1 at St. George's College in February 2020, but have never beaten Old Georgians at home.
Holcombe, who are also in the mix, just two points behind Hampstead and one point behind Wimbledon, welcome Reading to Holcombe Park for the first time since February 2020, after Reading's relegation and subsequent return to the Premier Division. When the teams met earlier this season, Holcombe won a thriller, 5-4 at Sonning Lane.
In the Lower Six, leaders Beeston welcome Oxted to Nottingham Hockey Centre. Oxted dropped out of the top two places after being held to a 2-2 home draw by Brooklands Manchester University whilst East Grinstead won 4-3 at the University of Nottingham. Since Oxted's promotion to the Premier Division, Beeston have won 3-1 and lost 4-0 in the East Midlands. Oxted will want to close the current four point gap between themselves and Beeston.
East Grinstead's victory saw them move a point ahead of Oxted and they will want to cement their advantage when they visit the University of Exeter. Exeter lost 4-2 at Beeston last weekend and will need to make history as they have never beaten East Grinstead in the Premier Division. Exeter battled in West Sussex on the opening day of the season, but went down 3-2, Simon Faulkner's hat-trick for East Grinstead proving decisive.
Brooklands Manchester University are now eight points adrift of both the University of Exeter and the University of Nottingham at the bottom of the table in spite of last week's point at Oxted and take on the University of Nottingham at Nottingham Hockey Centre on Saturday. Nottingham won 2-1 in the North-West in October.