Wilkinson Double Earns L1 2-1 Win At East Grinstead
By Colin Pike
Leah Wilkinson struck twice as Surbiton Ladies came from behind to beat East Grinstead 2-1 at Saint Hill on Sunday afternoon and close to within six points of leaders, Hampstead & Westminster in the Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division.
Surbiton moved above Wimbledon into third place and joined East Grinstead on 21 points ahead of their home clash with Hampstead next Saturday.
Having completed their fixtures, Wimbledon are guaranteed to finish the first half of the season in fourth place with Beeston and Clifton Robinsons set to battle for fifth and sixth places.
Youngster Gemma Townsend made her first team debut, coming on as a ninth minute substitute.
The game started under sunny skies with Surbiton dominating the first quarter and were unlucky not to take the lead.
Eloise Stenner forced an early save from East Grinstead goalkeeper, Laura Myers, Maddie Long forced Myers to kick away a dangerous cross into the circle and Sophie Hamilton clipped the post as East Grinstead were put under immense pressure.
Myers was also tested by Darcy Bourne. Surbiton had nothing to show for their domination at the end of the first quarter, but were temporarily without captain Sarah Evans who had to walk off the pitch for treatment after a clash in her own half.
In the second quarter, East Grinstead's Ellie Rayer ran infield from the right wing before having a blocked shot and Surbiton's Alice Sharp also went on a good run before being stopped by Chloe Brown.
Having withstood a significant amount of defensive pressure, East Grinstead took the lead in the 26th minute, Robyn Bentley scoring her second goal of the weekend after scoring in her side's 3-2 comeback win on Saturday.
Surbiton immediately tried to get back on terms with Evans, back on the pitch, having a shot saved by Myers after a run by Georgie Twigg.
At the end of the first half, Surbiton were awarded the first penalty corner of the match with Wilkinson converting to leave all to play for in the second half.
Having been pulled back, East Grinstead took the initiative at the start of the second half and forced their first penalty corner of the match, Chloe Palmer's shot deemed too high.
As at Holcombe on Saturday, Surbiton were eager to win possession back with Hamilton's interception setting up a scoring chance for Bourne, only for Myers to make another save.
Whereas East Grinstead had come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Buckingham on Saturday, it was Surbiton's turn to complete a comeback on Sunday, Wilkinson on hand to repeat her penalty corner magic of the first half in the 48th minute to give Surbiton the lead.
It was Surbiton's turn to cope with intense defensive pressure in the fourth quarter as not only were they temporarily reduced to nine players with Meg Dowthwaite and Maddie Long both seeing green in quick succession, but East Grinstead forced four penalty corners in the last seven minutes with Sabbie Heesh making an excellent double save from the first before facing three consecutive awards, the ball flicked wide of the left post from the final corner.
With time running out, Holly Payne kept possession to reduce the time available for East Grinstead to snatch an equaliser, the whistle blowing to mark Surbiton's first win at Saint Hill since November 2017 when they won 2-0 and go some way to avenging their record defeat in March 2020 when East Grinstead won 6-1.
While Surbiton are at home to Hampstead & Westminster on 27 November, East Grinstead will be at home to Clifton Robinsons, all games on the final weekend before the winter break, scheduled to start at 2 pm.