L1 Extend Lead After 3-1 Win In Birmingham
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies extended their lead at the top of the Investec Women's Hockey League Premier Division following their 3-1 win at the University of Birmingham and Hampstead & Westminster's last gasp defeat, 5-4 at Clifton Robinsons.
Surbiton now lead second placed Hampstead by five points and third placed Buckingham by eleven points.
With most of Surbiton's international players unavailable in advance of next weekend's Olympic Qualifiers, goalkeeper Brooke Butler and Issy Carey made the national league debuts for Surbiton.
On a chilly but sunny day in Birmingham, the first half was competitive and ended goalless thanks to determined defence by Birmingham and some good saves by home goalkeeper Nicole Marks.
Erica Sanders forced an early save against her former club and Susie Catlin made headway in the Birmingham 23 before being stopped by Lily Walker.
Carey was unlucky, being denied by Marks after receiving the ball from Beckie Middleton, making her return to the Surbiton squad after playing for Canberra Chill in Australia.
Carey also went close, sliding towards goal to try and turn the ball in to the goal.
Surbiton were also putting together some good passing moves, Jenna Woolven, Catlin and Eloise Stenner combining in the second quarter.
Marks also made an excellent save to deny Sanders again and Catlin after a pass from Darcy Bourne.
Birmingham had threatened with a 14th minute penalty corner and Robyn Collins forced a save from Surbiton's first penalty corner, but defences continued to be on top.
Stenner forced another save early in the second half, but it was Surbiton's penalty corner routine which led to the deadlock being broken, another former Birmingham player, Holly Munro finishing off a move from Surbiton's second award in the 40th minute, the goal only being given after both umpires consulted.
Jenna Woolven went close to doubling the visitors' lead two minutes later, but Sanders succeeded in the 54th minute, finding the backboard to score for the third week running.
Stenner added a third goal with two minutes remaining, beating Marks from close range before Birmingham scored a consolation goal in the last minute, Catherine Ledesma spoiling Butler's attempt to keep a clean sheet on her Surbiton debut.
Buckingham lost further ground but stayed in third place after losing 3-2 at home to Holcombe.
Clifton's victory lifted them up to fifth with East Grinstead's revival continuing as their 3-0 win at Bowdon Hightown saw them up to sixth place.
Loughborough Students moved above Birmingham into seventh place on goal difference after a narrow 1-0 win at Beeston.
Birmingham dropped to eighth with Beeston dropping to ninth and Bowdon Hightown staying in tenth.
Surbiton's season resumes on 9 November when they host Buckingham at Sugden Road (push back 12 noon) as part of a ladies' national league doubleheader, the Ladies 2s facing Team Bath Buccaneers at 2 pm.