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L1 To Face East Grinstead In Playoff Final On Sunday


1st April 2023

By Colin Pike

Surbiton Ladies will face East Grinstead in the final of the Vitality Women's Hockey League Finals at Sugden Road on Sunday (push back 1 pm) in their quest for a ninth successive league title.

Surbiton beat Hampstead & Westminster 5-3 in their semi-final whilst East Grinstead drew for the third time this season against Clifton Robinsons before winning 9-8 in a shootout to reach a Championships final for the first time.

Surbiton led 3-0 after just 21 minutes after Giselle Ansley found the backboard from the hosts' first penalty corner in the fifth minute and Hannah Martin doubled the lead also from a penalty corner in the tenth minute. Martin struck again in the 21st minute to seemingly give Surbiton one foot in the final, but opponents write Hampstead off at their peril, the London club battling back before eventually conceding defeat.

Phillipa Lewis reduced Hampstead's deficit in the 25th minute from open play, only for Sophie Hamilton, the Premier Division's top goalscorer to give Surbiton a 4-1 lead in the 27th minute with a stunning goal.

Hampstead's penalty corner routine was to prove beneficial with Anna O'Flanagan scoring their second goal in the 29th minute from their second penalty corner to complete the scoring in an entertaining first half which left the spectators breathless.

Hamilton turned goal provider in the 43rd minute with Martha Le Huray scoring from close range from Hamilton's cross before O'Flanagan converted Hampstead's third penalty corner three minutes later.

Surbiton's discipline nearly counted against them as both Hamilton and Holly Payne received yellow cards and with Hampstead withdrawing Roxy Gianfrancesco from their goal in favour of an eleventh attacker after Payne's misdemeanour,  the reigning champions were put under pressure. 

Although Hampstead were awarded two penalty corners in the last ten minutes, they couldn't find their way through Surbiton's defence again and had to settle for the third-place playoff against Clifton Robinsons on Sunday.

Clifton Robinsons had already drawn 1-1 and 2-2 this season, so it was on the cards that the third meeting would end 3-3 and force a shootout to decide the second finalists. 

After a goalless first quarter, Clifton were caught out just 18 seconds after the start of the second quarter as Tess Howard gave East Grinstead the lead. Clifton equalised on the half hour, Izzy Webb scoring after East Grinstead goalkeeper Isabel Field made a double save. 

Clifton led for the only time in the 46th minute when Phoebe Richards scored from open play, but a disastrous end of the third quarter saw Clifton trail 3-2 at the start of the fourth quarter. First, Tess Howard levelled at 2-2 from a 52nd minute penalty stroke before Sophie Bray converted the West Sussex club's fifth penalty corner in added on time at the end of the quarter. To add insult to injury, Clifton's Kat Gierak was sent to the sin bin for five minutes for the penalty corner offence.

Clifton, who beat Hampstead & Westminster and drew with Wimbledon on their way to topping Pool B, made East Grinstead work hard for the win by equalising with five minutes to play, Sarah-Jayne Thorburn scoring from open play.

Clifton had won the bonus point in a shootout against Wimbledon, but it wasn't to be their day as East Grinstead made the final at last having suffered three previous semi-final defeats in the EHL Championships years.

After the first shootout round the teams were level at 4-4, Phoebe Richards, Izzy Webb, Clemmie Houlden and Livvy Hoskins scoring for Clifton; Tess Howard, Alex Malzer, Sophie Bray and Sally Sime replying for East Grinstead.

Clifton had originally gone first, but in sudden death, East Grinstead went first, with Howard, Malzer, Bray and Sime all successful the second time around. Similarly, Richards, Webb, Houlden and Hoskins all scored again in sudden death. Chloe Brown, who had failed to score in round one, made amends in sudden death, but sadly, Abi Porter, who had also failed in round one, was denied by Field to send East Grinstead through with a 9-8 scoreline.

Clifton will face Hampstead in the third-place playoff at 11 am on Sunday with East Grinstead taking on Surbiton at 1 pm.

Sunday is sold out however the games can still be watched via England Hockey TV for £3.99 here

The games can also be followed in real time via England Hockey Altius. The Women's competition can be found here

The men's competition can be followed here

Surbiton's Under-18 Girls will take on Repton in the Tier 1 Final at Nottingham Hockey Centre and that game can also be followed on England Hockey Altius here

Next season, Surbiton will face Bowdon and Isca & University of Exeter in the Premier Division. Bowdon will return to the top-flight for the first time since 2019-20 after beating Leeds 3-0. Stourport could only draw 1-1 at Leicester City, so fell short by two points.

Isca had already clinched promotion, but were unable to go through the season unbeaten as they lost 1-0 to Surbiton 2s at Epsom College, Gemma Townsend scoring the only goal in the 37th minute.