L1 Draw At Clifton Robinsons
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies began their 2021-22 Vitality Women's England Hockey League Premier Division campaign with a 2-2 draw at Clifton Robinsons.
In a game of two halves, Surbiton took the lead before trailing 2-1 at half time and then equalised early in the second half but couldn't find the winner.
Surbiton gave debuts to six players at Coombe Dingle Sports Complex: Freya Bull, Charlotte Daly, Sophie Hamilton, Martha Le Huray, Elani Sherwood and Leah Wilkinson. In addition, Darcy Bourne returned to the squad after a spell at Duke University.
The push back was delayed by fifteen minutes due to traffic problems on the M4.
Clifton Robinsons dominated possession at the start, but it was Surbiton who took the lead virtually with their first attack, Alice Wills putting the reigning champions ahead in the sixth minute from open play.
Clifton had the opportunity to get a quick equaliser, but were denied by Surbiton goalkeeper, Sabbie Heesh from their first penalty corner in the eighth minute.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Bull was unlucky not to score her first goal for Surbiton after an aerial ball found her in space, but was unable to find the net.
Eloise Laity forced a save from Heesh late in the first quarter, but in the second, Clifton's Carmen Ansley was called upon twice in defence to deny Emily Defroand and Eloise Stenner, combining with Izzy Webb on the second occasion to clear.
The home supporters had something to cheer in the 21st minute, when Catherine Macaulay levelled from open play to bring the Bristol club back into the match.
Clifton had two further penalty corners in the second quarter and a well worked routine from their third set-piece of the match in the 34th minute found Macaulay at the right post to put the home team ahead for the first time.
After a half time team talk, Surbiton took the game to Clifton in the second half with Sophie Hamilton forcing a save from home goalkeeper Aline De Visser in the early seconds of the third quarter.
There was nothing De Visser could do in the 38th minute as Eloise Stenner scored from close range to make the score 2-2.
From that point, Surbiton will wonder how they failed to score a third goal, forcing ten penalty corners in the second half to follow from two in the first, with Clifton's penalty corner defence successfully blocking Surbiton's shots or shots going wide of the goal.
Sarah Evans contrived to hit the post in the 59th minute as Clifton's luck continued to hold against a barrage of visiting attacks.
Bourne had a shot saved and battled with former Surbiton player Holly Munro, whilst Clifton tried to counter attack with Claire Jones and Kitty Chapple attacking down the left side.
But to their credit, Clifton Robinsons defended well and deserved a point after a good attacking first half and an equally good defensive second half.
Elsewhere, East Grinstead extended their unbeaten run to 22 games with a 4-1 home win over Loughborough Students. Hampstead & Westminster won 3-1 at Wimbledon in the London derby, Swansea drew 1-1 with Buckingham and Surbiton Ladies' next opposition, Beeston beat Holcombe 2-1.
Surbiton host Beeston next Saturday (25 September).