L1 Win 2-1 At Clifton Robinsons
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies maintained their five point lead at the top of the Vitality Women's Premier Division Top Six table with a 2-1 victory at Clifton Robinsons on Saturday.
Surbiton needed a late penalty corner conversion from Giselle Ansley to clinch their ninth victory in eleven visits to Coombe Dingle and keep Wimbledon, who beat Beeston, also by a 2-1 scoreline, at bay.
Surbiton included Lilie Lamacraft in their squad for the first time since April 2013, when she played in the team which lost the third/ fourth place playoff, 3-2 to Canterbury at Sonning Lane, Reading.
At a chilly Coombe Dingle, where the sun briefly shone before cloud built up, Surbiton put early pressure on the Clifton Robinsons defence with Sophie Hamilton threatening and former Surbiton player, Holly Munro needed in defence.
Surbiton took the lead in the eighth minute, Hamilton's angled pass touched in from short range by Meg Dowthwaite as the visitors looked to be on course for a comprehensive victory.
However, Clifton battled well with goalkeeper Aline De Visser making several saves to frustrate the Surbiton forwards and Clifton's right post frustrating Hamilton in the 25th minute as Surbiton failed to find a much needed second goal before half time.
Surbiton also struggled with their penalty corner routine, failing to get the ball on target. Clifton's penalty corner routines were more limited, but their second award saw them get on level terms, Livvy Hoskins smacking the backboard in the 48th minute to give the Bristol club hope of a second-ever league win over Surbiton and their first on home turf.
Having struggled with their penalty corner routine, Ansley found the backboard from the visitors' sixth penalty corner to restore Surbiton's lead with four minutes remaining.
Surbiton found a unique way to run the clock down, forcing three penalty corners in the last three minutes before Clemmie Houlden finally won back possession for Clifton but time ran out before Clifton could try and find an equaliser.
Wimbledon kept up the pressure with former Surbiton player Olivia Chilton and Fiona Burnet giving Wimbledon a 2-0 lead before Hannah Grieve halved the deficit with three minutes to play.
Hampstead & Westminster are third, three points ahead of East Grinstead, having played a game more after a 3-2 win over the West Sussex club at Paddington Recreation Ground. Jo Leigh, Grace Balsdon and Sarah Robertson all converted penalty corners with Anna Faulstich replying for East Grinstead twice from open play.
Beeston are fifth and Clifton Robinsons are sixth.
In the Lower Six, where the top two teams qualify for the playoffs, Loughborough Students stayed top, in spite of going down 2-1 at Buckingham, who won only their second game of the season. Maddie Newlyn and Natasha James left Loughborough trailing 2-0 before Lorna Mackenzie scored for the students, but Loughborough could not find an equaliser.
Reading missed the chance to leapfrog Loughborough as they suffered a 2-1 defeat of their own at home to the University of Nottingham. Jordan Homann gave Nottingham the lead, but although Abbie Dixon equalised for the Berkshire club, Maddie Axford snatched the win in the 66th minute.
The University of Birmingham made history as they won for the first time at Holcombe, Carter Ayars scoring the only goal.
Loughborough now lead by a single point from Reading, University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham, with Holcombe now four points adrift of fourth place and Buckingham five points further back.
Surbiton Ladies are at home to Beeston on Sunday (26 February) push back 2.30 pm. The match preview can be read here