Men’s Hockey League Preview – 19/20 February 2022
First plays second in the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division Top Six on Saturday night when leaders Old Georgians will hope to extend their current five point lead with a victory at second-placed Surbiton. Old Georgians beat their Elmbridge rivals 2-0 at home at the end of 2021 and with Surbiton likely to be severely depleted due to international call-ups and injuries, will be confident of completing a quickfire league double. Old Georgians will be without Sam Ward and Liam Sanford, who are both in Argentina alongside five Surbiton players.
If Old Georgians win, Wimbledon can move into second if they avoid defeat against East Grinstead in South-West London, also on Saturday night. East Grinstead, who qualified for the Top Six with a late winning run in Phase One, came close to holding Surbiton to a 1-1 draw in West Sussex last Saturday, and although they are twelve points adrift of Holcombe in fifth place, they will want to show that they have improved since losing 4-2 at home to Wimbledon in November. Wimbledon are one of four teams chasing a European place, having already qualified for Europe by winning the Super 6s indoor title at the Copper Box Arena last month.
On Sunday, Hampstead & Westminster, also in contention for a place in Europe next season, host in form Holcombe at Paddington Recreation Ground. Last weekend they ended Wimbledon’s nine game unbeaten run with a 1-0 home win and they travel to Central London on the back of their own seven game unbeaten run with hopes of moving up into the top four. Hampstead lost 3-1 at Old Georgians after taking the lead to end a run of four successive wins.
In the Bottom 5…
The University of Exeter belatedly start their campaign to avoid relegation after a bye week last week. The Devon club have a mountain to climb after losing their first nine games and finally salvaging a point at home to Durham University in their final match of 2021, but with Durham University and Brooklands Manchester University both only six points ahead with Exeter having a game in hand, escape is not yet impossible. They start with a home game against Oxted, who will feel they should be in the Top 6, but were eventually pipped by East Grinstead. The Surrey club are currently in seventh place with a four point cushion over nearest rivals Beeston.
Beeston are at home to Durham University and will be looking to avenge their narrow defeat in the North-East on Halloween, where having fought back to 2-2, they were undone by a winning Durham goal with just two minutes remaining. The win over Beeston was one of two Durham victories this season, the other coming on the opening day against Brooklands. Beeston are not safe from the threat of relegation with a two point advantage over tenth place, but a win at Nottingham Hockey Centre on Sunday afternoon would ease their fears.