England: England Hockey League 2023/24 Premier Division Weekend 3 Review

Clifton Robinsons remain unbeaten in their last six regular season matches as they went top of the Vitality Women’s Premier Division on Saturday with a 3-1 over Beeston.

Sarah-Jyne Thorburn gave Robbies the lead with an early first quarter goal before Mads Newton netted from a penalty corner in the 40th minute.

The Bristol side then claimed top spot with two goals in three minutes via Jessica Lea and a Livvy Hoskins penalty corner goal in the 52nd minute. It was only their second ever win at Beeston.

“Clifton were the better side, simple as that,” admitted Beeston coach James Sordillo. “We fell below what we expect of ourselves but that shouldn’t take away from Clifton, full credit to them, they are a really good side and they got the better of us. I expect them to do really well this year.”

Bowdon’s brilliant start to the season continued apace as they moved up to third in the table with a first clean sheet of the season.

Their 1-0 home win over Isca & University of Exeter, who remain without a point, came courtesy of Catriona Booth’s second-half penalty corner. Bowdon then defended stoutly to earn the points.

Sian French, Bowdon captain, said: “With two promoted teams we knew it would be tough and so it was vital to get the three points. 

“Taking seven points from the first three games and going on an unbeaten run is a really pleasing start. But we recognise there is a long way to go in the first phase before Christmas.”

Reading also remain unbeaten as they stood up to the test posed by Hampstead & Westminster at Sonning Lane in a 1-1 draw, their first point against the Londoners.

Madi Ratcliffe gave the visitors the lead in the 25th minute before Sarah Spooner levelled in the 64th minute. It was the third time in as many games that Reading had rallied in the closing stages, this time to muster a point.

Surbiton beat their second student side in succession as Dave Beckett’s side won 2-0 at University of Birmingham.

Hannah French (Martin) scored twice either side of the break from open play.

Champions East Grinstead got their season off the mark with an entertaining 4-2 win over University of Nottingham in the club’s double header on Saturday.

Sophie Bray scored a hat-trick at home against the university side for the second season running after last season’s treble in a 5-1 home win. Chloe Brown also scored for East Grinstead.

“It has been a disappointing start for us this season but great to get three points going into a big match against Wimbledon this weekend,” said Bray.

“We controlled the game well but it was always tight as Nottingham were dangerous on the break and were clinical in the circle.”

East Grinstead had three GB internationals sidelined at the weekend – Tess Howard, Alex Malzer and Ellie Rayer – although this meant that the West Sussex side were able to field five under-18s in the squad. Australian Anna Moore, Lily Walker and Grace Balsdon all made their debuts.

Meanwhile, Wimbledon and Loughborough Students played out a 0-0 draw.

*All stats provided by Colin Pike 

On the evidence of the opening three weekends, the Men’s Premier Division looks set for a tight outcome in deciding a title winner as Holcombe went top after beating Surbiton 3-2 on Saturday.

After narrowly losing 2-1 to Old Georgians on Thursday night in front of a healthy crowd at Holcombe Park, Barry Middleton and David Ames’ side rallied brilliantly to deny Surbiton.

Nick Bandurak scored his fifth goal in seven visits to Sugden Road, while Phil Roper also got in on the act – the GB pair also scoring in a 3-2 reverse in the corresponding fixture in February. Roper’s second in the 65th minute proved to be the winner.

Holcombe will head to the Euro Hockey League in Barcelona this week in fine fettle, as will Old Georgians after two wins in less than 48 hours.

On Saturday, the champions ended Wimbledon’s unbeaten start to the 2023/24 season with another 2-1 victory. Chris Proctor and James Carson netted for the Weybridge side before Callum Mackenzie’s 53rd minute goal Wimbledon hope of a late equaliser.

Old Georgians’ Henry Weir said: “The first part of the league has always been about our first EHL game and it’s been difficult for the lads to think about anything other than that.

“But we’ve had a great opportunity to play the top three teams in the league before our EHL match-up. We were great against Wimbledon, who are tactically the best offensive and defensive team in the league I think.

“We broke them down, we were efficient and defended really well. George [Pinner] also made some great saves and we are in great shape.”

Sam Apoola proved deadly from open play while Matt Guise-Brown made Reading pay from the set piece as Hampstead & Westminster beat Reading 5-1.

After Sam French had given H&W the lead in the 12th minute, Apoola and Guise-Brown scored in the 31st and 35th minute, and again in the 60th and 64th respectively. Nick Catlin scored a late consolation goal while H&W’s Toby Vaughan had a standout game in defence.

Their fine win – their sixth in a row at Reading in an eight-year unbeaten run at Sonning Lane – saw Andrew Wilson’s side move third in the table on goal difference.

Wilson said: “We didn’t have the best of starts against Nottingham last week so we knew that by keeping patient the goals would come. 

“There are no freebies in this league and you have to work for it and it’s great we are getting variation in goals, in both open play and short corners.”

Bradley Sherwood’s last-minute leveller for Oxted prevented hosts Cardiff & Met from a second successive Premier Division win after last week’s 3-2 victory at Reading. 

Sherwood had opened the scoring in the fourth minute while Scott Rawlings scored twice for the hosts. Oxted conceded four goals for the second week running.

East Grinstead beat University of Nottingham 2-1 to earn their first points of the season after penalty corner goals from Isaac Farrant, against his former club, and Max Lowrey. Tim Ehret scored eight minutes from time for the students.

At Beeston, the hosts scored a third minute opener through Jamie Rawlings before Teague Marcano and Richmond Lum saw Southgate to a 2-1 lead. Kwan Browne saw yellow in the 61st minute and Beeston secured a point four minutes from time through Henry Croft. It was a first Premier Division draw between the teams at Beeston since 1997.

by England Hockeyl

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