L1 Win 3-1 At Holcombe
By Colin Pike
Surbiton won 3-1 at Holcombe on Saturday afternoon as the top six teams in the Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division were confirmed with one round to spare.
Hampstead & Westminster, East Grinstead, Wimbledon and Surbiton were joined by Beeston, who won 4-2 at Swansea to clinch their place and Clifton Robinsons, who lost 2-1 at home to Wimbledon, but sealed their place after Loughborough Students and the University of Birmingham drew 1-1 in Leicestershire.
Holcombe lost their sixth match in nine league games, under the floodlights of Holcombe Park on a chilly and dark afternoon.
Surbiton started brightly with Maddie Long being tackled by Holcombe's Beth Bingham, whilst the hosts threatened on the counter attack, Ivanna Pessina and Candice Manuel trying to make an early breakthrough.
Bingham defended well against Meg Dowthwaite, Eloise Stenner and Long combined to force a save from Holcombe goalkeeper, Rose Thomas before Bridget Blackwood cleared and Sophie Hamilton fired the ball into the outside side netting in a frantic first quarter.
Surbiton continued to attack in the second quarter, with Darcy Bourne causing problems for the Holcombe defence, having a shot blocked and forcing a save from Thomas after a good passing move towards goal before finding the backboard in the 30th minute to open the scoring.
Pessina had threatened another counter attack from a turnover before Bourne scored, and shortly before half time, Emily Defroand had a shot over the bar from the left post, but Surbiton had to settle for a 1-0 lead at the interval.
Surbiton had had two penalty corners in the first half, but Holcombe equalised from their first award in the second half, Tania Escaich finishing off the routine against visiting goalkeeper, Louisa Bray, to give Holcombe only their seventh league goal of the season and hopes of a second successive win.
Surbiton suffered some frustration as the ball either wouldn't fall for them or they misplaced or mis-hit passes, but they restored their lead in the 52nd minute, Hamilton's shot brilliantly deflected past Thomas from close range by Dowthwaite.
Hamilton then scored a brilliant individual goal in the 60th minute, running towards goal before smashing the ball past Thomas to extend Surbiton's lead to 3-1.
Two minutes earlier, Holcombe were wondering how they hadn't levelled for a second time as the ball went over the junction of crossbar and right post.
Georgie Twigg forced a fine save from the edge of the circle and Surbiton suffered a mistrap from their third and final penalty corner, but ultimately got the three points they needed and momentum to take into the match at East Grinstead the following day.
East Grinstead had to come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Buckingham and with Wimbledon having completed their first half league programme at Clifton Robinsons, Surbiton have the opportunity to move above Wimbledon with a win at Saint Hill on Sunday (push back 1.30 pm).
Hampstead & Westminster didn't play as it was their bye week and East Grinstead closed the gap to six points with a game in hand. Surbiton, currently in fourth place, trail Wimbledon by two points with two games in hand and have the potential to move up to second if they beat East Grinstead by three goals.
Any win would lift Surbiton up to third.