Vitality Women’s Hockey League Preview – 2 April 2022
Having missed a golden chance to clinch their eighth successive Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division title last weekend when they surrendered their unbeaten record in a 2-0 home defeat to Hampstead & Westminster, Surbiton Ladies need just a point from their remaining two matches, starting with their second visit of the season to East Grinstead on Saturday afternoon.
Surbiton won 2-1 in West Sussex in November and then handed East Grinstead their heaviest national league defeat when they won 6-0 at Sugden Road in February. East Grinstead’s hopes of lifting the title evaporated following successive defeats at Beeston (3-2) and Clifton Robinsons (3-1) over the last two weekends.
Hampstead & Westminster can mathematically catch Surbiton, but need to hope that Surbiton lose at East Grinstead and at home to Wimbledon, while Hampstead need to beat Beeston and East Grinstead both at home, turning round a minus 17 goal difference between the title challengers at the same time.
Beeston will travel to London with some confidence, having shown resilience after losing 7-1 at home to Surbiton by winning 3-2 at East Grinstead and beating Wimbledon 3-1 in Nottingham to help eliminate both their opponents from the title race. Hampstead won 4-2 in Nottingham in February, but had to battle before winning 1-0 at Paddington Recreation Ground in November.
Hampstead are on 37 points, East Grinstead on 36 and Wimbledon on 35 as realistically they are fighting to secure the second European qualification place. Wimbledon host Clifton Robinsons for the first time this season, having won 2-1 on both their trips to Bristol in November and February.
In the Bottom Five, the one relegation issue was settled last weekend when Swansea’s second successive defeat to the University of Birmingham was enough to seal their fate. Seventh placed Birmingham and eighth placed Buckingham have a game in hand over their rivals and meet in the West Midlands for a noon showdown. The teams met in successive league games straddling the winter break, with Birmingham winning both games, 2-1 at home in December after the fixture was postponed the week before and at 3-1 at Stowe School in the first game of Phase Two. Buckingham are coming off their second bye week and will hope that they can continue their four game winning streak which saw them lift themselves away from the original relegation zone.
Swansea make their second trip of the season to Holcombe, where they lost 4-1 in their final game of Phase One, but the Welsh club started Phase Two with a 1-1 home draw against the same opponents to earn their second point of the season. Holcombe can move up to eighth with a win if Buckingham suffer a third defeat of the season to Birmingham. Loughborough Students, trailing Holcombe by three points, have a bye week.