The final day of the Men’s Hockey League in England is upon us and what a mouth-watering day ahead. With no less than 13 teams still to realise their fate Championship and relegation spots still to be decided in all three of the Men’s National Leagues.
In the MHL Premier Division a resurgent Canterbury team welcome Brooklands MU to Polo Farm in a “Winner takes all” encounter with neither team safe from the relegation play-off places. Canterbury will go in to the game high on confidence on the back of just one loss in their last five games and front man Tom Bean now finding the net on a regular basis. Brooklands MU have struggled of late with just one win in their last six, against relegated Loughborough Students who have lost all their matches this season. Brooklands MU however know they have the upper hand, needing only a draw to stave off relegation and secure their position in the MHL Premier Division for the 2017/18 season, and even a loss by no more than 2 goals would be enough for Brooklands MU. This game has all the ingredients for a spectacular finish to the season. Canterbury would be looking to their influential talisman Craig Boyne and coach Danny Matthews to install a hard fighting all-out attack, whilst Brooklands will be relying on their fast counter attacking hockey being led by the experienced Peter Flanagan as both teams strive for survival.
Canterbury HC Vs Brooklands MU – 1400 – Polo Farm
Meanwhile in the East Conference, both ends of the table are still undecided. With two big stand out fixtures, it’s all to play for. At the top of the table Sevenoaks are set to travel around the M25 to fellow title contenders Teddington. Whilst at the bottom, Indian Gymkhana are traveling to the other side of the city to strugglers Wapping.
Sevenoaks head to Teddington knowing they need no less than to overturn the result from the reverse fixture where Teddington took all three points with a 3-2 win. With both sides on near identical stats for the season, Won 14, Drawn 1, Lost 2, it is Teddington who have the edge in the duel by a +2 goal difference, meaning Sevenoaks must win to be crowned champions. If I was a betting person however, my money would be on Teddington who have the home advantage and the goal difference, meaning they know that all they have to do is avoid defeat to top the table and secure their spot in the promotion playoffs.
Sevenoaks first task is to stop the influential, former GB star, Matt Daly from dictating the play. Daly currently tops the leagues scorer’s charts with 25 goals from 14 games, 21 of those coming from penalty corners. Sevenoaks have their own penalty corner star tucked up their sleeves in Andrew Ross. Ross has notched up 18 goals this season with 15 coming from penalty corners. It’s not all about set piece specialist with these two sides though, Teddington’s Andrew Pett leads the league top goal scorers charts in field goals with 15 of his 18 goals coming from open play, add to that goals from the ever impressive Tim Davenport, whom is just one goal away from breaking over the very impressive 300 National League goals line and you can see why the West London outfit sit at the top of the table. Sevenoaks would be looking to Andrew Ross and George Torry to continue their form in front of goal to secure the win that is vital for Sevenoaks promotion hopes. Speaking to Teddington coach Chris Seddon he says “The whole team is excited and ready to go, its obviously going to be a very tough match between two sides that haven’t lost in a while. We will continue to try and play our fast attacking style of hockey”.
This match is certainly one for the neutrals, with some extremely attacking hockey on show it will be at the opposite end of the pitch that this match will be won or lost. This is definitely a day for Goalkeepers Richie Potton and Elliot Bulman to be the heroes.
At the opposite end of the table Ravi Virdi takes his revived Indian Gymkhana side across London to the Olympic park to take on the league’s bottom placed team Wapping. Since the start of the 2nd half of the season Indian Gymkhana have seen a mini revival and upturn in their fortunes, picking up six points from their last four matches, moving them within just one point of avoiding the automatic relegation spot. Having strengthened their team and brought in new coach Virdi, Indian Gymkhana go in to this match as favourites against a poor Wapping side who have struggled with the pace and skill of the National League in their debut season. If Wapping are inevitably relegated from the National Leagues they will take with them a lot of experience that will bode well for another promotion push next season in the East Leagues.
Elsewhere across the country the North Conference also has a relegation battle between Oxton and Leek to avoid the automatic relegation places. Whilst in the West Conference things are still wide open with the possibility of Team Bath Buccaneers, Cardiff & Met and Uni of Exeter all still in the fight for the league title. Whilst at the bottom Fareham, Isca and Chichester are all at risk of the relegation playoffs.
Whoever you are supporting, or if you are just a neutral, this is a big day in the England Men’s Hockey League with some big matches to be played. You are sure to witness some fast flowing attacking hockey.
Good Luck to all involved.