L1 Win At Buckingham
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies maintained their nine point lead over second placed Hampstead & Westminster and are close to securing top spot and qualification for Europe after a 5-2 win at Stowe School against Buckingham.
Stowe School has not been a happy venue for Surbiton over the last two seasons and after seven minutes they went behind, Sabbie Heesh's clearance going straight to Natasha James, Buckingham's leading goalscorer, who poked the rebound past Heesh.
Ten minutes later, Surbiton were level, Erica Sanders converting Surbiton's first penalty corner with a well worked routine.
Sanders was also involved in the 22nd minute when she pulled the ball back from Buckingham's back-line for Susie Catlin to put Surbiton ahead and celebrate her birthday earlier in the week.
Buckingham struck a psychological blow a minute before half time when Lottie Porter equalised to leave all to play for in the second half.
Neither side was able to make a breakthrough in the third quarter, but Surbiton pulled away in the fourth quarter as they found their rhythm.
Following Surbiton's sixth penalty corner, the visitors were awarded a penalty stroke and with specialists, Giselle Ansley and Georgie Twigg not in the matchday squad, Sanders stepped up to slot the ball past home goalkeeper, Ella Jackson and into the netting just above the backboard to retake the lead with her tenth goal of the campaign.
In the 61st minute, Holly Payne scored with an angled shot which deceived the Buckingham defence and with three minutes remaining, Hannah Martin found the backboard to score Surbiton's fifth.
The final 5-2 scoreline was not a true reflection of the game as Buckingham battled throughout, but Surbiton took their chances in the final quarter to earn the victory.
With four games left, Buckingham now have Loughborough Students as their nearest rivals for the fourth playoff place after Loughborough beat Beeston 1-0.
Hampstead & Westminster became the second team to qualify for the playoffs with a 4-1 win at Holcombe and in the other match, the relegation battle took another twist as the University of Birmingham won 2-1 at Clifton Robinsons to move two points clear of Bowdon Hightown, now back at the bottom of the table.
Surbiton play Holcombe at Sugden Road on Sunday (push back 2 pm) as part of Ladies Day.
There is a full programme of Investec Women's Hockey League Premier Division matches with Beeston at home to Bowdon Hightown in what could prove to be a key relegation battle; Buckingham travel to Clifton Robinsons; East Grinstead and Hampstead & Westminster meet in what could prove to be a preview of a Playoff semi-final and the University of Birmingham host Loughborough.