Vitality Women’s Hockey League Preview – 26 March 2022
Surbiton Ladies can clinch their eighth successive Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division title when they host fourth placed Hampstead & Westminster at Sugden Road on Saturday evening. A third win of the season over their visitors would see them at least maintain their seven point lead over second-placed East Grinstead with just two matches remaining after this weekend’s fixtures.
Surbiton won 3-2 when the teams first met in Elmbridge in November to end Hampstead’s nine game winning streak from the start of the season. Three weeks ago that was followed by a 4-2 win at Paddington Recreation Ground. Hampstead have tailed off disastrously with just two wins and a draw in their last seven matches since their defeat at Surbiton, but are still not mathematically eliminated, trailing Surbiton by nine points with three games to play.
East Grinstead will be hoping for a Surbiton slip up as they visit sixth-placed Clifton Robinsons for the first time this season having won 6-1 and 6-0 in West Sussex already this season. Clifton have struggled since 6 November when they last won, beating the University of Birmingham 1-0 at home, drawing one match (3-3 at Hampstead & Westminster) in their last ten games.
Barring an unlikely dip in form by Surbiton, East Grinstead, Hampstead and Wimbledon are all battling for runners-up and the second European place. East Grinstead are on 36 points, Wimbledon on 35 and Hampstead on 34.
Third-placed Wimbledon travel to fifth-placed Beeston, also for the first time this season and only the second time at Premier Division level, having won 6-0 and 4-0 at Raynes Park High School. Wimbledon last played Beeston at Nottingham in October 2020, when they won 1-0, meaning Beeston are still looking for their first goal against the South-West London club.
In the Bottom 5, a week after Swansea won their first ever match in the top flight, 2-1 at Loughborough Students, the Welsh club could be relegated following Friday’s announcement that only the bottom club will be relegated from the Premier Division as there will be 12 clubs at the highest level for the first time since Premier 1 was introduced for one season in 2004-05. Swansea are at home to the University of Birmingham, where they lost 1-0 last Sunday in a rearranged match after going down 4-2 in the West Midlands in week 2 of Phase One.
With Holcombe and Loughborough Students, the two teams immediately above Swansea holding an eight point advantage with just three games remaining, meeting in Kent, Swansea will need to win to keep their slight hopes of avoiding relegation alive. A defeat would confirm Swansea’s relegation.
Holcombe and Loughborough have had mixed fortunes this season in their meetings in Leicestershire. Loughborough won 1-0 in October, but a superb five goal haul for Tania Escaich in February helped Holcombe to a 5-2 victory.