W1 Have Five Point Lead After 1-0 Home Win Over Beeston
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Women extended their lead at the top of the Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division to five points after battling to a 1-0 home win over Beeston whilst second-placed Reading lost 4-3 at home to East Grinstead.
The game versus Beeston can be watched back via the Surbiton Hockey Club channel on You Tube here
Beeston have a better record against Surbiton in Elmbridge than on their home pitch in Nottingham and having drawn 1-1 at Sugden Road in February 2022, Beeston fell to a narrow defeat in October 2023, Sophie Hamilton's 20th minute strike enough to secure the points for the hosts.
Surbiton will be happy that Sabbie Heesh kept her second successive clean sheet after a 2-0 victory last Sunday, but will wonder how they failed to score more than one goal on a day in which the game started in sunny conditions but ended in overcast and occasionally wet conditions.
Surbiton struggled to find their rhythm early on with Izzy Petter's pass going harmlessly over Beeston's backline before combining with Hamilton, whose pass just missed Meg Dowthwaite in the circle.
Hannah French played a one-two movement with Hamilton before Hannah Grieve intervened and when Beeston had possession in their own half, they tried to stay patient with Grieve and Lucy Mackey playing the ball across the back to try and find a gap in the home defence they could exploit.
Beeston's Lottie Summers thwarted a passing move involving Petter, French and Lottie Ross, but the visitors nearly fell behind towards the end of the first quarter, Holly Payne's shot rebounding off the left post to Beeston's relief.
But there was nothing the Beeston defence could do in the 20th minute when Hamilton found herself in front of goal before sending the ball into the net above the backboard to goalkeeper Steph Tirrell's left to open the scoring. Meg Dowthwaite's run and French's pass set up what proved to be the only goal of the match.
Tirrell also had to kick the ball away after a slick Surbiton passing move and in a game dominated by continuous open play, the hosts had to wait until two minutes before the half time interval to force their first penalty corner of the match, Surbiton unable to capitalise on the set-piece or the subsequent re-award.
Early in the third quarter, Hamilton forced another save from Tirrell and Surbiton's penalty corner routine also caused frustration as Leah Wilkinson could only deflect the ball past the post. By this stage, the sunny skies had been replaced by overcast conditions as the predicted rain became ever more imminent, changing the playing conditions.
The rain arrived towards the end of the third quarter, but initially only lasted for a five minute spell during which Tirrell made multiple saves from Surbiton's fifth penalty corner to keep Beeston's hopes of getting at least a point alive.
The rain returned in the fourth quarter and briefly became heavier before stopping. Beeston had their only penalty corner opportunity with eight minutes remaining, Heesh saving and Amy Costello clearing the ball to deny the visitors an equaliser.
Surbiton were able to run the clock down in the final five minutes by forcing three penalty corners, but couldn't find the insurance goal they wanted, but managed to hold on to the single goal lead until the final whistle, although Dowthwaite had to leave the pitch due to injury in the closing minutes.
Reading led East Grinstead 3-2 early in the third quarter, Eliza Chippendale, Caroline Spence and Fran Clements scoring for the Berkshire club and Tess Howard converting two penalty corners for East Grinstead. But two goals in four minutes from Liv Breed and Biba Mills gave the West Sussex club the 4-3 win and all three league points.
Bowdon drew their fourth game in a row in a 2-2 home draw with Clifton Robinsons. Katie Alexander opened the scoring for Bowdon but goals from Holly Munro and Carmen Ansley threatened Bowdon's unbeaten record before Hannah Macdonald salvaged both a point and the unbeaten record.
The University of Nottingham are fourth, behind Bowdon on goal difference after a 4-1 home win over bottom club Isca & University of Exeter. Molly Fairburn put Isca ahead but two penalty strokes from Julie Read and goals from Maddie Axford and Maddie Long helped Nottingham to complete their comeback.
Hampstead & Westminster are one point of the top six following their 4-0 win at Loughborough Students. Madi Ratcliffe's brace and goals from Rachel Greenwood and Lily Owsley kept Loughborough in eleventh place.
Wimbledon dropped behind Hampstead and the University of Birmingham moved above Beeston after Wimbledon drew 2-2 with the University of Birmingham. In another game where the lead changed hands, Jess Davis gave Birmingham the lead with twelve minutes remaining only for Paige Gillott and Beth Bingham to put Wimbledon 2-1 up with four minutes to play. Lily Sokhi ensured parity and a point apiece two minutes from time.
Surbiton visit the University of Nottingham next Saturday (4 November) push back at Nottingham Hockey Centre is 4.30 pm.