Honours Even Between L1 and Wimbledon
By Colin Pike
The first ever league meeting between local rivals Surbiton Ladies and Wimbledon ended in a 1-1 draw at Sugden Road on Saturday evening.
The eagerly anticipated Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division clash was played out under the floodlights in front of a large crowd, but the result will not help either club to keep pace with leaders Hampstead and Westminster.
Both sides showed attacking intent in the first quarter, with Wimbledon eager to frequently break up Surbiton's attacks with tight tactical marking.
Wimbledon's Ali Howie stopped an early Eloise Stenner attack and Darcy Bourne's attempt to attack down the right wing was abruptly ended by Eliza Brett at the sideline.
Wimbledon also had two penalty corners in the first quarter but failed to convert.
That changed in the 21st minute when it was third time lucky for the visitors, Fiona Crackles finishing off Wimbledon's third penalty corner routine to leave Surbiton trailing.
Wimbledon had the better for the first half overall as they successfully defended a Maddie Long and Stenner attack; counterattacked after former Surbiton player, Lucy Holder tackled Emily Defroand and Sophie Hamilton after showing some excellent possession skills rotated before firing past the left post.
Sophie Hawkins attacked down the left wing for Wimbledon, who also successfully coped with the loss of two players through green cards in the second quarter, Suzy Petty in the 27th minute and Holder in the 32nd.
An excellent one-two routine between Hamilton and Stenner resulted in Surbiton's first penalty corner award of the night a minute before half time, but the resulting goal was disallowed after an umpire consultation due to a perceived foot offence.
Surbiton came out for the second half and immediately showed an improvement in attack. Captain, Sarah Evans shot past the right post and Stenner could only look on in disbelief as another shot narrowly missed the goal, close enough for the crowd to immediately react in agreement.
Former Surbiton player, Hollie Pearne-Webb worked hard in defence and visiting captain Harriet Naismith defended well against her opposite number in order to preserve Wimbledon's precious lead.
Wimbledon still led going into the fourth quarter, but Surbiton's equaliser, just as with Wimbledon's opener, came from a penalty corner, Darcy Bourne's drag-flick eluding Wimbledon goalkeeper Nicki Cochrane.
Kea Murray became the third Wimbledon player to see green late in the game and Cochrane made a double kick save as the game fizzled out to a draw to leave honours even.
The point lifted Wimbledon to second, a massive eight points behind Hampstead, who beat Holcombe 3-0 for their sixth win of the season. East Grinstead are third, a point behind Wimbledon but with a game in hand after their 4-1 home win over Swansea.
Surbiton are fourth, level with East Grinstead on nine points, but having played a game more. Clifton Robinsons are also on nine points following their 5-4 home win over Loughborough Students, but Surbiton have a game in hand over Clifton.
The University of Birmingham and Beeston drew 2-2, but could both be overtaken by Loughborough if they win their game in hand.