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W1 Qualify For League Finals Weekend


23rd March 2024

By Colin Pike

Surbiton Women qualified for the League Finals Weekend with a game to spare after an eventful 6-2 home win over the University of Nottingham at Sugden Road on Saturday afternoon.

The match can be watched back via the Surbiton Hockey Club channel on You Tube here

Hampstead & Westminster's 5-1 home win over Clifton Robinsons means that both Surbiton and Hampstead qualify for the semi-finals with their Pool A meeting on 6 April set to decide which team finished top of the pool.

The game at Sugden Road was preceded by a mini hailstorm before settling down to sunny conditions with a bitterly cold wind. The University of Nottingham kept possession for most of the first three minutes before Surbiton won a penalty corner from their first attack, Amy Costello's drag-flick rebounding off the backboard from a re-award in the fourth minute.

Four minutes later, the University of Nottingham equalised from their only penalty corner of the match, Jordan Homann finding the backboard, but in the process of trying to save the shot, Surbiton goalkeeper Sabbie Heesh injured her knee, leaving Surbiton without a goalkeeper for the remaining 62 minutes.

Faced with this unpredictable scenario, Surbiton responded in the only way they could, Alice Sharp finding Meg Dowthwaite in the circle to restore the hosts' lead within a minute of losing their goalkeeper.

In the 25th minute, Surbiton went 3-1 ahead from their sixth penalty corner, the ball slipped to Leah Wilkinson before Sophie Hamilton lobbed the ball over Nottingham goalkeeper Mia Brown to give the hosts valuable breathing space.

Trailing 3-1 at half time, Nottingham weren't prepared to give up and pulled a goal back after just 38 seconds of the third quarter, Maddie Axford running towards goal before passing to Claudia Swain to smash the ball against an unguarded backboard.

Any thoughts that Surbiton's hopes of qualification might be dented because of their lack of goalkeeping cover were eased in the 45th minute when Alice Sharp's superb finish extended her side's lead to 4-2.

Four minutes later, Dowthwaite caught the Nottingham defence out for the second time in the match to leave the students trailing 5-2 going into the final quarter.

Surbiton came close to adding a sixth goal in the 64th minute after Amy Costello's drag-flick from their ninth penalty corner was stopped illegally on the goal-line. Giselle Ansley's penalty stroke whistled past the right post, but the miss proved to be a stay of execution.

Three minutes later, Surbiton' sixth goal arrived courtesy of Costello's drag-flick rebounding off the back board for the second time as Surbiton followed up their 6-1 home win in February with a 6-2 victory in March.

Hampstead joined Surbiton in the last four thanks to their 5-1 win over Clifton. Hampstead led 2-0 at half time through goals from Sarah Robertson and Olivia Hamilton before Eloise Laity halved the deficit early in the third quarter. Two goals from Madi Ratcliffe either side of Philippa Lewis's strike sealed the win and qualification.

Pool B is far more open as East Grinstead were held to a 1-1 draw by Bowdon before winning an extra point in a shootout and Wimbledon won 2-1 at Reading.

Biba Mills gave East Grinstead an eighth minute lead but Aine Curran's equaliser with just two minutes remaining set up the shootout. East Grinstead won 3-1, Liv Breed, Sophie Bray and Chloe Brown scoring for the hosts, Sian French replying for Bowdon.

At Sonning Lane, Caroline Spence put Reading ahead in the 17th minute before Becky Manton and Amelie Rees turned the match around.

In the relegation playoffs, Beeston took the battle for the second round of matches to the final day with a 3-2 win at the University of Birmingham. Katie Mason and Lauren Burrell gave Beeston a 2-0 half time lead, but although Sophie Flint reduced the deficit to 2-1, Hannah Grieve extended the visitors' lead to 3-1. Hannah Atkinson caused a few anxious moments for the Nottingham club with fourteen minutes left, but Beeston saw out what could be a precious victory. 

Either Beeston or the University of Birmingham will join Isca & University of Exeter in Division One next season after Loughborough preserved their top-flight status with a 1-0 home win over the Devon club. Hollie Dring-Richardson's fifth minute goal proved to be the decider.

In Division One South, Surbiton W2 ended the season with a narrow 3-2 defeat at Barnes, Issy Yonge and Hannah Denison scoring for the champions. The win wasn't enough to secure promotion for Barnes as Holcombe beat Wimbledon W2 3-1 at Holcombe Park to be promoted from second. A brace from Leisa Randall and a third goal from Phoebe Steele ensures that Holcombe will join Sutton Coldfield in the Premier Division next season.

Surbiton W1 will take a break from domestic action at Easter when the travel to Hamburg to compete in the EuroHockey Club Trophy I. Surbiton face Watsonians of Scotland on Good Friday, Club an der Alster on Saturday and Butterfly Roma of Italy on Sunday before the classification matches on Easter Monday.

More information about the tournament can be found at the EHF Altius website here