Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division
Clifton Robinsons 2 Surbiton 2
Surbiton, still reigning champions after the 2020-21 season was declared null and void due to COVID-19, were held to a 2-2 draw in Bristol by Clifton Robinsons in their opening match of the 2021-22 campaign.
With the Olympic cycle only recently having concluded after the Tokyo Olympics were delayed by a year, Surbiton gave debuts to six players after some players sought pastures new.
Freya Bull, Charlotte Daly, Martha Le Huray, Elani Sherwood and former Clifton players, Sophie Hamilton and Leah Wilkinson all made their first appearance for the Sugden Road club in their new pristine all white strip.
Clifton Robinsons’ squad consisted solely of players from their 2020-21 squad, with one unfamiliar name, Claire Jones, neé Thomas, after marriage.
The team’s eagerness to restart playing league hockey was spoiled after the match was delayed by 15 minutes due to traffic problems on the M4. When the game did get underway, it was Clifton Robinsons who dominated, but failed to break down the visitors’ defence.
Having weathered the early storm, Surbiton took a sixth minute lead, Alice Wills scoring from open play.
Bull came close to doubling the lead towards the end of the first quarter after finding herself in space to receive an aerial ball, but couldn’t quite finish the move off.
Clifton Robinsons continued to battle and were rewarded in the 21st minute when Catherine Macaulay delighted the home supporters with an open play equaliser. The home team’s prospects were even brighter just before half time when a well worked penalty corner routine from their third award found Macaulay at the right post to put Clifton Robinsons 2-1 ahead in the 34th minute.
Clifton Robinsons’ dominance in the first half evaporated in the second after a much needed team talk gave Surbiton the impetus to incessantly attack the home goal with Hamilton denied by goalkeeper Aline De Visser just seconds after the restart.
When Eloise Stenner equalised from close range in the 38th minute, Surbiton seemed to be well on the way to earning an eighth successive win at the Coombe Dingle Sports Complex. However, Clifton successfully defended a total of twelve penalty corners (ten in the second half), although Sarah Evans struck the post and for all their dominance, Surbiton could not find the all-important third goal.
When Clifton were able to attack, Claire Jones and Kitty Chapple tried to make the best use of the left wing, but were unable to catch Surbiton out on the counter attack.
Surbiton will be disappointed not to keep up their winning record in Bristol, but Clifton Robinsons should be proud of their second half defensive performance and when combined with their first half attacking performance, provides evidence that they earned their share of the spoils.
Scorer: Catherine Macaulay 21-F, 34-PC
Starters: Aline De Visser (GK); Holly Munro, Kathryn Lane (Capt.), Eloise Laity, Kitty Chapple, Izzy Webb, Carmen Ansley, Abbie Porter, Louisa Bell, Claire Jones, Livvy Hoskins.
Subs: Catherine Macaulay (5 mins), Maria Jones (9), Ashley Mainwaring (9), Zoe Leach (11).
Cards: Green: Kitty Chapple (52 mins).
Scorers: Alice Wills 6-F, Eloise Stenner 38-PC
Starters: Sabbie Heesh (GK); Elani Sherwood, Alice Wills, Sarah Evans (GK), Holly Payne, Sophie Hamilton, Eloise Stenner, Steph Elliott, Emily Defroand, Leah Wilkinson, Maddie Long.
Subs: Darcy Bourne (5 mins), Meg Dowthwaite (5), Freya Bull (5), Martha Le Huray (9), Charlotte Daly (13).
Match Official: Jane Rickey
Umpires: Gemma Jones and Helen Sargeant