Men’s Hockey League Preview – 2/3 April 2022
Old Georgians can finally clinch their maiden MHL Premier Division title if they win at East Grinstead on Saturday night. Holding an eight point lead over second-placed Wimbledon, Old Georgians missed the chance to become champions last Saturday, losing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at home to reigning champions, Surbiton. East Grinstead have lost all three previous Premier Division encounters, including 3-0 and 7-0 losses this season in Surrey. Old Georgians will be favourites after East Grinstead lost 6-1 at home to Wimbledon last weekend.
On Sunday afternoon, the chase for the second European place continues with Wimbledon, five points ahead of third-placed Surbiton with three games to play, hosting fifth-placed Hampstead & Westminster, who now cannot qualify for Europe. Hampstead have won on their last four away games against Wimbledon, including a 3-2 victory on the opening day of the season, but Wimbledon were dominant at Paddington Recreation Ground in early March, when they won 4-1.
Surbiton face a home match against Holcombe, whose form in recent weeks has been inconsistent. Having dropped two points at East Grinstead when the hosts equalised late to draw 3-3, Holcombe beat Surbiton 3-0 in Kent; crashed 8-2 at Old Georgians; lost 5-1 at Wimbledon, but beat Hampstead 4-3 on their home pitch. When the teams met on the first day of the season, Surbiton came from 4-2 down to win 6-4 and they will have to beat Holcombe if they are going to maintain their hopes of European qualification, with a home game versus Wimbledon to come next week.
In the Bottom 5, the University of Exeter can only watch as they have their second bye week whilst Durham University, who beat Beeston 1-0 last week to move back out of the one team relegation zone, travel to Brooklands Manchester University for the first time in the Premier Division. Durham have had mixed fortunes in their two home meetings with the Manchester students, winning for the first time in the top flight on opening day when they won 2-1, but then losing 4-1 in February.
Durham’s victory, combined with Exeter’s 2-2 draw at Oxted gives Durham a two point cushion over Exeter with two games to play and if they can beat Brooklands for a second time this season, Exeter’s top flight status will be in serious jeopardy.
Beeston and Oxted are now playing for a finishing position with both teams probably still disappointed that they didn’t qualify for the Top 6. Beeston won 2-1 at Oxted on 13 March and will be hoping to complete a clean sweep of wins over the Surrey club in Nottingham after winning the previous meeting in the East Midlands 3-1 back in October. Beeston will want to bounce back from their defeat at Durham and Oxted will want to improve on their 2-2 draw at home to Exeter when they led, fell behind 2-1 and equalised in the second half to secure their point. Seventh-placed Oxted have a two point advantage over eighth-placed Beeston with a game in hand, so Beeston can move up to seventh with a win.