L1 Make Winning Start To League Finals
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies began their League Finals campaign with a 4-0 home victory over the University of Birmingham on Saturday afternoon.
Surbiton's victory took them to the top of Pool A on goal difference from East Grinstead, who subsequently came from 2-0 down to beat Beeston at Saint Hill.
Birmingham have still to win at Sugden Road in the top-flight, but held out until seconds before the end of the first quarter, when Sophie Hamilton eased the ball over the line from the left of the circle to become Surbiton's all-time leading scorer against Birmingham with her sixth goal against the West Midlands students.
Alice Sharp, Darcy Bourne and Meg Dowthwaite had all gone close in the opening period when Birmingham worked hard in defence, Sarah Spooner and Carter Ayars working together to clear the ball and Lily Walker tackling Holly Payne as Surbiton tried to make the breakthrough.
With one goal came two, only separated by the first quarter interval as Hannah Martin's shot rebounded off the backboard in the 21st minute to double Surbiton's lead after finding space to finish.
Birmingham recovered their composure after Surbiton's second goal with Emma Allroggen helping the visitors to organise their defence in the second quarter. Surbiton struggled with their penalty corner routine but the experience was more painful for Millie Giglio when she was helped off the pitch after being struck from Surbiton's third penalty corner.
Evie Wood in the Birmingham goal made some good saves, especially from penalty corners, but could do nothing five minutes after half time when Bourne scored Surbiton's third goal with the hosts on target to repeat their 5-0 victory in November.
In the end, Birmingham only conceded a fourth, Martin grabbing her second of the match with four minutes to play to complete a comfortable victory. Martin came close to joining Hamilton as the only Surbiton player to score a hat-trick against Birmingham but couldn't get her shots on target either side of her goal in the final minutes.
Surbiton visit Nottingham Hockey Centre next Saturday (18 March) to play Beeston (push back 2 pm). Surbiton beat Beeston 4-1 at Sugden Road on 26 February.
In West Sussex, Hannah Grieve and Charlotte Watson gave Beeston a 2-0 lead after just ten minutes but East Grinstead fought back to win 3-2 thanks to Sophie Bray, Alex Malzer and Tess Howard.
In Pool B, Wimbledon beat the University of Nottingham 2-0, Megan Crowson and Olivia Chilton giving The South West club a narrow lead on goal difference over Clifton Robinsons who won 2-1 at Hampstead & Westminster for only their second victory over the London club. Grace Balsdon scored for Hampstead from the penalty spot in the 15th minute but Livvy Hoskins and Eloise Laity turned the match around for the Bristol club.
Buckingham's relegation from the Premier Division after six seasons, was confirmed when they lost 2-1 at Loughborough Students and Reading and Holcombe drew for the third time this season, this time 1-1.
Buckingham are seven points adrift of Reading with only two games remaining and although Lottie Porter instantly equalised for Buckingham, Lorna Mackenzie, who had given Loughborough the lead, clinched the win with her second goal of the match in the 59th minute.
Reading and Holcombe had drawn 2-2 a month ago and 0-0 in October, and the third meeting in Berkshire ended 1-1 to complete the set of results. Hannah Cozens gave Reading the lead before Emma Bandurak equalised for Holcombe.