Vitality Women’s Hockey League Preview – 9 April 2022
With Surbiton having been crowned for the eighth time as Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division champions, the race for the second European place is the focus of attention on the last weekend of action for the Top Six teams.
Wimbledon go into the last round in pole position for second place, but have to visit Surbiton, where they drew 1-1 in October. A late penalty corner goal from Steph Elliott earned Surbiton a 1-0 win in the return fixture at Raynes Park High School in February, so the formbook indicates a third close encounter of the season. Surbiton will find the game useful as they prepare for participation in the Euro Hockey League in Amsterdam over Easter.
Third-placed Hampstead & Westminster are at home to fourth-placed East Grinstead. Hampstead are a point behind Wimbledon, so if Hampstead win, Wimbledon will also have to win to secure a place in Europe next season. If East Grinstead win, Wimbledon will likely find a draw sufficient as they have a superior goal difference over the West Sussex club. To add to the tension, all games start at 2 pm as it is the final day of the season.
Hampstead beat East Grinstead 3-2 in London in week two of the season and then lost 3-0 at Saint Hill in February during a dip in form after they won their first nine games of the campaign. East Grinstead have lost their last three games against Beeston, Clifton Robinsons and Surbiton, having experienced problems with team selection.
Fifth-placed Beeston host sixth-placed Clifton Robinsons, but the game will be played on one of the University pitches at Nottingham Hockey Centre as their normal pitch has been dug up. Both teams are guaranteed to finish in their current positions, but Beeston will be aiming to finish the season on a run of four successive wins having beaten East Grinstead, Wimbledon and Hampstead & Westminster over the last three weeks to show that they earned their place in the top six. Clifton Robinsons will be disappointed with their recent form with only a single win against East Grinstead and a draw against Hampstead to show since early November, having lost just one of their first seven matches. Beeston are aiming for a clean sweep of victories after winning 2-0 in November and 3-2 in February.
In the Bottom 5, it’s the penultimate round of matches, so the push back time restriction doesn’t apply until the final round of matches after Easter.
Swansea, whose relegation has already been confirmed, have their second bye week leaving the other teams to battle for their final finishing positions without relegation concerns. The University of Birmingham have all but clinched seventh place and welcome Holcombe to the West Midlands. It’s Holcombe’s last match of the season against a team which they have drawn twice against this season, 2-2 in their second match of the season and 1-1 in March, both games played in Kent.
Buckingham, who have faint hopes of finishing seventh, are at home to Loughborough Students, who will be aiming to catch Holcombe in ninth place. Buckingham have found their form with four wins and a draw in their last five games following a run of seven successive defeats between mid-October and mid-February. Loughborough lost both meetings with Buckingham by a single goal margin, losing 1-0 in Buckinghamshire in early October and 3-2 at home in March.