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W1 Home To Hampstead On Saturday


5th April 2024

By Colin Pike

Surbiton Women take on Hampstead & Westminster in their final Women's Hockey League Finals Pool A match on Saturday (push back 1400 at Sugden Road).

As this is the final weekend of Stage 3 of the Premier Division season, all matches start at 1400. The match can be watched online via the Surbiton Hockey Club channel on You Tube here

Both teams have qualified for next weekend's League Finals semi-finals, so the result of the match will decide which team finishes first and second. With Pool B still up for grabs because all four teams can qualify if results go their way, the semi-final line-up won't be confirmed until after the final whistle on Saturday.

Surbiton will be playing their first match as European champions after their gold medal performance in the EuroHockey Club Trophy I in Hamburg, where they ended Belgian club, KHC Dragons' two year run as holders on Monday. Surbiton played four games of 60 minutes in four days over the Easter weekend, so it will be interesting to see how they have recovered from their hectic schedule.

Hampstead finished third last season over the League Finals weekend, Surbiton winning 5-3 in the semi-final at Sugden Road and Hampstead beating Clifton Robinsons in the third-placed playoff. This season, in winning their first two Pool A matches, Hampstead have been on fire, beating the University of Nottingham 9-3 and Clifton Robinsons 5-1, both at home.

Surbiton haven't exactly been goal shy either, beating Clifton Robinsons 4-1 and the University of Nottingham 6-2, the second game played for 72 minutes without a goalkeeper after Sabbie Heesh suffered a knee injury when the first Nottingham goal was scored. Any fears that losing Heesh might be a hindrance to Surbiton's title chances were dispelled in emphatic manner in Hamburg where Amber Walton was named goalkeeper of the tournament.

Surbiton are the home team on Saturday as the rules were changed for the 2023-24 season allowing the top two teams after Stage 2 to have all three pool games at home.

East Grinstead pipped Reading to second place on goal difference to earn the right to stage all three home games in Pool B, but the reigning champions could unexpectedly miss out on semi-final qualification if they lose to Reading. Pool B was shaken up after Wimbledon won 2-1 at Reading before Easter and East Grinstead needed a shootout to get an extra point against Beeston meaning that if Wimbledon win at Bowdon and Reading win at East Grinstead, the West Sussex club's defence would be over.

East Grinstead would be especially disappointed after they finished fifth in the Euro Hockey League in Amstelveen over Easter, losing their FINAL8 matchup 3-1 to hosts and eventual winners AH&BC Amsterdam before beating Belgian club Gantoise 2-1 in the ranking match, possibly boosting England's chances of having a second team in the Euro Hockey League in 2025.

Even Bowdon, currently fourth in Pool B, could qualify if they beat Wimbledon and East Grinstead beat Reading, leaving East Grinstead on 8 points, Bowdon on 4 with Reading and Wimbledon missing out on 3. This means that Surbiton and Hampstead can't plan tactically to decide which team they want to meet in the semi-finals.

Historically, Surbiton have only lost once to Hampstead since the visitors were promoted in 2018-19, Grace Balsdon and Lucy Hyams scoring in a 2-0 win at Sugden Road in March 2022. This season, Surbiton won both meetings, 3-1 at Sugden Road and 2-0 at Paddington Recreation Ground.

In the other match in Pool A, Clifton Robinsons travel to the University of Nottingham.

This weekend also sees the conclusion of the relegation playoffs. Isca have already been relegated and either Beeston or the University of Birmingham will join them in Division One next season. Beeston, three points behind Birmingham, need a win at home to Isca and hope that Loughborough Students beat Birmingham and both margins of victory enable Beeston to overturn a six goal inferior goal difference.

The two relegated teams will be replaced by Sutton Coldfield, who will return to the top-flight for the first time since 2013-14 after becoming Division One North champions; and Holcombe, who make an immediate return to the Premier Division after finishing as runners-up to Surbiton 2s in Division One South. Surbiton 2s cannot be promoted as Surbiton already have a Premier Division team and second teams are not permitted in the Premier Division.