L1 Go Top In Spite of Draw With Beeston
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies went top of the Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division Top Six table in spite of being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Beeston on Saturday afternoon.
Previous leaders, East Grinstead lost 3-0 at home to Wimbledon and Hampstead & Westminster drew 3-3 at home to Clifton Robinsons to leave Surbiton ahead of Hampstead on goal difference on 28 points with East Grinstead a point behind.
Wimbledon's victory closed the gap between themselves and the top two to two points ahead of their home meeting with Surbiton next Saturday.
Surbiton gave a first team debut to Jenny O'Grady and were forced to make a last minute adjustment to their squad, Freya Bull coming in for Eloise Stenner.
As at Clifton Robinsons the previous week, Surbiton were dominated in the first three minutes as it was Beeston's turn to keep possession. Surbiton were unable to repeat their feat of taking the lead from virtually their first attack, but only had to wait until the 11th minute to take the lead, Maddie Long taking advantage of a Beeston turnover before running towards goal and slipping the ball past goalkeeper Steph Tirrell and against the backboard.
There were few chances in the first quarter, Beeston's Hannah Grieve clearing after a Tirrell save as the visitors confidently defended and attacked.
Surbiton failed to take advantage of their penalty corner routine, a mistrap from a second successive penalty corner award in the 19th minute setting up a Beeston counter attack initiated by Mads Newitt.
Two minutes later Beeston threatened with Surbiton needing to concede a long corner by deflecting the ball over the crossbar, closely followed by a brief injury worry when Alice Huddlestone limped after a shot on goal.
Beeston forced three penalty corners towards the end of the first half and after Grieve had been denied twice, it was third time lucky as the ball was manoeuvred to the left of the circle, Cerys Miller scoring Beeston's third ever goal at Sugden Road in the top flight, all three coming from penalty corners.
Surbiton battled in the second half to restore their lead, but the Beeston defence held firm, stopping an Alice Sharp run towards goal; preventing Sarah Evans from scoring directly in front of goal after excellent approach play from Meg Dowthwaite and Holly Payne and a late effort from Alice Wills which followed a scrappy period of play for both sides.
Beeston had a fourth penalty corner opportunity midway through the second half, only for Louisa Bray to save before the ball was cleared to safety.
Surbiton also had further penalty corner frustration. Steph Elliott firing past the right post after Beeston's Bea Bell had been accidentally hit during the preceding award.
Paige Gillott had also been struck accidentally earlier in the match, but Beeston, who were unlucky not to draw at home to East Grinstead the previous week, losing 2-1 to a penalty stroke, were able to secure their first draw at Sugden Road.
Surbiton face Wimbledon at Raynes Park High School next Saturday at 3 pm.
In the Bottom 5, Buckingham lost 3-1 at home to the University of Birmingham and Swansea earned their second point of the season thanks to a 1-1 home draw with Holcombe. Loughborough Students had a bye.