L1 Win 8-2 At East Grinstead
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies stunned East Grinstead by scoring six goals in the second half to win 8-2 at a miserable Saint Hill in West Sussex on Saturday.
The floodlights were needed from the start on a chilly day when the sun only made a fleeting appearance.
The Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division Top Six clash was delayed by 25 minutes due to problems watering the pitch, but Surbiton, who had been the last team to beat East Grinstead at home in the Premier Division in April 2022 thanks to Darcy Bourne's seventh minute goal made an even better start in 2023, scoring twice in two minutes.
Giselle Ansley found the backboard as Surbiton converted their first penalty corner in the eighth minute, before Sophie Hamilton, who was unlucky not to open the scoring in the third minute at the left post, made amends in the ninth minute to score what proved not to be an unlucky 13th goal of the campaign as she became the Division's top scorer, one ahead of East Grinstead's Sophie Bray.
East Grinstead tried to get back into the match in the first quarter with Guadalupe Fernandez Lacort firing past the left post and Ellie Rayer forcing a save from Sabbie Heesh.
Laura Unsworth was denied from the hosts' first penalty corner in the 20th minute and Surbiton nearly suffered an injury setback when Alex Malzer's shot hit Leah Wilkinson, causing time to be stopped, but the Welsh international quickly recovered.
Amy Thompson and Carlota Gomez combined to defend against Surbiton's Martha Le Huray as Surbiton turned round at the interval with a 2-0 lead.
Whatever was said at half time galvanised East Grinstead as they found themselves back on level terms by the 39th minute. Tess Howard scored both goals after East Grinstead failed to take advantage of a Surbiton turnover within seconds of the restart.
Surbiton seemed to lose concentration as Howard netted in the 37th minute and then two minutes later, found the equaliser from the left of the circle, her outstretched stick at the perfect angle to deflect the ball past Heesh. Howard joined Hamilton on 13 goals for the season becoming East Grinstead's top scorer.
Surbiton needed to find their focus quickly and their fourth penalty corner enabled them to restore their lead, Wilkinson smashing the ball past Myers, who had made a diving save from Ansley late in the second quarter, in the 42nd minute to make the score 3-2.
Eight minutes later, Bourne found Hannah Martin in perfect position to score Surbiton's fourth goal and celebrate a well taken goal.
In the 52nd minute, just before the end of the third quarter, it was Bourne's turn to become goalscorer as the ball ended up in the East Grinstead net.
In the fourth quarter, East Grinstead failed to convert two penalty corners and had no answer as Surbiton added another three goals.
Meg Dowthwaite poked ball into the goal at the right post from the visitors' sixth penalty corner in the 57th minute with the East Grinstead defence all at sea two minutes later as Hamilton scored her second goal of the match and 14th of the season, one ahead of Howard.
Surbiton made it eight in the 62nd minute, Izzy Petter smacking the backboard as Surbiton were rampant offensively to open up a ten point lead over second-placed Wimbledon with one match to play.
Howard became the second casualty of the day after Ansley accidentally hit her, with three minutes remaining but thankfully, like Wilkinson, she was fit to continue.
The match can be seen again via the East Grinstead Hockey TV channel on You Tube here
Surbiton host Hampstead & Westminster on Sunday, when all the games are scheduled to start at 2 pm as it is the final round of Phase 2 matches and Surbiton have won the Premier Division and a minimum of the second European place in 2023-24.
Hampstead Match Preview can be found here