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Vitality Women’s Hockey League Preview – 27 November 2021
With the top six teams decided after last week’s penultimate round of matches, the question left to answer in the Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division is can Hampstead & Westminster win all ten of their league games in the first half of the season?
Hampstead are currently on a run of ten successive league wins: nine this season and a 1-0 win versus Holcombe in their last game of the curtailed 2020-21 season. Standing in Hampstead’s way are the reigning league champions, Surbiton, who prepared for the key matchup on the final weekend by winning 3-1 at Holcombe on Saturday and 2-1 at East Grinstead on Sunday, ending the West Sussex club’s 14 game unbeaten home run. Surbiton also won both matches when they last met Hampstead in the Premier Division in 2019-20, 3-1 at home and 3-2 away.
Surbiton can close to within three points of Hampstead if they win at Sugden Road on Saturday, as can East Grinstead if they beat Clifton Robinsons, whose top six qualification was confirmed last week, in spite of a 2-1 home defeat by Wimbledon as Loughborough Students could only draw 1-1 at home to the University of Birmingham, the draw ending both clubs’ hopes. Clifton Robinsons go to Saint Hill having lost consecutive games to Beeston and Wimbledon, whilst East Grinstead will want to hang on to second place.
Wimbledon are guaranteed to finish fourth after they completed their fixtures in Bristol, and Beeston will want to cement their fifth place with a home win over Loughborough Students. Beeston have found some form with three wins in their last four matches to book their place as a top six team.
The bottom five teams will be battling against relegation when the season resumes in 2022 and with only two points separating 7th to 10th places all the teams will have reason to be nervous. The University of Birmingham are at home to Buckingham, who have struggled, losing their last five games since they snatched a late draw at Surbiton on 9 October. Buckingham had gone unbeaten in their first four matches, but are now in relegation contention, a point above tenth placed Holcombe. The University of Birmingham will hope that home advantage will count as they try and pull away from the bottom of the table.
Holcombe host bottom club Swansea, who started the season with a 1-1 home draw against Buckingham, but have lost the next eight to leave them stranded at the bottom of the table with a single point. Swansea have scored two more goals than Holcombe, but the Kent club’s advantage came from their sole victory, a 2-1 win at Buckingham, which has helped them to a four point advantage over the Welsh club. A win for Swansea would give them hope of making the great escape.
Although the lower divisions schedule ended last week, there are a couple of rearranged fixtures scheduled for this weekend. On Saturday, Bedford are at home to Broxbourne in the Conference Midlands. Bedford can close the gap between themselves and leaders Sutton Coldfield to three points with a victory, whilst Broxbourne are two points above ninth placed University of Birmingham 2s.
On Sunday, Leeds host Doncaster in the Conference North. Leeds can go top of the table on goal difference over leaders, Timperley if they win and a Doncaster victory would move them up to third, a point off the lead.