L1 Guarantee 1st Place Finish After Phase Two
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies are guaranteed to finish first after Phase Two of the Vitality Women's Hockey League after coming from 1-0 down at half time to beat Beeston 4-1 at Sugden Road on Sunday. Surbiton have also qualified for Europe in 2024, but which competition they will compete in will be decided after the playoffs.
Surbiton go into the last weekend of Phase 2 with a seven point lead over Wimbledon, who have one game left to play and are also guaranteed to finish second. Beeston will finish fifth and Clifton Robinsons sixth, but third and fourth will be up for grabs as Hampstead lead East Grinstead by three points, but East Grinstead have a game in hand.
That match will be at home to Surbiton next Saturday in a game originally postponed due to East Grinstead's European commitments. Surbiton also face Hampstead & Westminster at Sugden Road next Sunday whilst East Grinstead head to Wimbledon.
At a chilly Sugden Road, Surbiton began brightly with Beeston's Nicola Moss stopping an early Sophie Hamilton attack and Alice Sharp shooting into the side netting.
Beeston had lost 2-1 at Wimbledon the previous day, but took the lead in the eighth minute from a breakaway attack, the ball slipped through for Lauren Burrell, who had scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at Hampstead & Westminster the week before, to beat Sabbie Heesh.
Hannah Martin and Izzy Petter both had shots saved by Beeston's Steph Tirrell in the first quarter and the second quarter was equally frustrating as Medeline Pendle thwarted a Darcy Bourne attack and twice in quick succession, Martin just failed to convert a Hamilton cross.
Beeston could have doubled their lead before half time and with Surbiton struggling again with the penalty corner routine, Beeston were on course for only their second-ever league win over Surbiton.
Everything changed in the second half after Hamilton restored parity in the 38th minute, scoring her 12th goal of the season from the right of the circle.
Six minutes later, Surbiton took the lead for the first time from their fourth penalty corner, Leah Wilkinson's deft touch deceiving Tirrell.
Izzy Petter, who had illustrated Surbiton's attacking intent shortly after half time with a run towards goal before the ball ended up over the crossbar, got on the scoresheet in equally defiant fashion in the 48th minute to give Surbiton much needed breathing space. Martin then converted Surbiton's eighth penalty corner in the 59th minute to make the final score 4-1.
The other two Top Six matches ended in draws: Wimbledon drawing 0-0 with Hampstead & Westminster and East Grinstead drawing 2-2 with Clifton Robinsons, Laura Unsworth and Amelia Tait scoring for East Grinstead with Livvy Hoskins and Holly Munro replying for Clifton Robinsons.
In the Lower Six, the University of Nottingham went top after a stunning 6-1 away win at Holcombe. Maddie Long and Maddie Axford each scored twice with Merle Knobloch and Eliza Wheeler also scoring for Nottingham. Emma Bandurak scored before half time for Holcombe.
Nottingham are a point clear of Loughborough Students who needed a Lorna Mackenzie goal five minutes from the end to earn a home point against the University of Birmingham, who had taken the lead through a tenth minute goal from Emma Allroggen.
Buckingham continued their revival to close to within two points of Holcombe thanks to their 2-0 win at Reading. Maddie Newlyn and Caroline Spence were their scorers.