Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division Review – 26 March 2022
Surbiton officially need a point from their last two games at East Grinstead and at home to Wimbledon to claim their eighth successive Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division crown after falling at the eighteenth hurdle in their quest to record the third unbeaten regular season in their history.
Surbiton were unbeaten in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, but Hampstead & Westminster ended their hopes of a third flawless campaign with a 2-0 win at Sugden Road on Saturday evening. A third-minute penalty stroke from Grace Balsdon and Lucy Hyams’ tenth goal of the season from open play in the 47th minute boosted Hampstead’s hopes of claiming second place and European qualification and mathematically prevented Surbiton from celebrating, although Hampstead would need to overturn a 17 worse goal difference in addition to beating Beeston and East Grinstead at home while hoping Surbiton lost both of theirs.
Surbiton followed Bowdon Hightown as the second team to lose their unbeaten record in the eighteenth match of the season as Bowdon won their first seventeen games of the 2008-09 season before losing 3-1 at Canterbury on the final day of the season.
Hampstead moved up to second place, six points behind Surbiton as both East Grinstead and Wimbledon lost 3-1 away from home to drop out of the title race. East Grinstead lost 3-1 at Clifton Robinsons, who led 3-0 as Claire Jones, Catherine Macaulay and Livvy Hoskins were devastating from open play in the 15th, 28th and 40th minutes. The West Sussex club’s only consolation was that Sophie Bray’s 52nd minute open play goal took her back to the top of the division goalscoring charts with her 18th goal of the season, one ahead of Surbiton’s Darcy Bourne.
Beeston had not scored a goal in three previous Premier Division matches against Wimbledon, but quickly made amends, Lucy Millington opening the scoring in the third minute before Sophie Robinson doubled their lead in the 40th minute. Sarah-Jayne Thorburn halved the deficit with a 61st minute penalty corner conversion but a minute later, Millington scored Beeston’s third open play goal of the day to clinch their second successive win.
In the race for the second European place, Hampstead are on 37 with East Grinstead on 36 and Wimbledon on 35.
In the Bottom 5, Swansea’s relegation was confirmed as they lost 3-0 at home to the University of Birmingham. Millie Attwell gave Birmingham a 22nd minute lead before Lily Walker converted a penalty corner in the 47th minute and Delyth Thomas added a third goal from open play in the 54th minute to ensure that the Welsh club’s top flight status will cease at the end of the season.
Holcombe and Loughborough Students, now assured of safety following England Hockey’s announcement that only one team will be relegated from each Premier Division following the decision to expand the 2022-23 top flights to 12 teams, met in Kent with Holcombe winning 4-2.
It was a game of two halves with Holcombe storming to a 4-0 half time lead through a brace of open play goals from Candice Manuel in the tenth minute and Tania Escaich, who had scored five goals in Leicestershire in February, scoring in the 21st minute. Harriet Pittard and Ivanna Pessina contributed penalty corner conversions in the 33rd and 35th minutes to leave Loughborough reeling.
The Students mounted a recovery of sorts in the second half, Izzy Petter pulling a goal back in the 39th minute and Beth Alexander scoring Loughborough’s second goal in the 58th minute, Holcombe conceding two open play goals. Buckingham had a bye week.
|2||Hampstead & Westminster||18||12||1||5||43||28||15||37|
|1||University of Birmingham||15||6||5||4||24||25||-1||23|