Vitality Women’s Hockey League Preview – 12 February 2022
After the Top 6 got underway last weekend in the Women’s Vitality Hockey League Premier Division, the Bottom 5 also starts this weekend, although Loughborough Students will have to wait an extra week due to receiving a bye in Week One.
Hampstead & Westminster’s 2-1 defeat at fourth-placed Wimbledon last Saturday allowed East Grinstead and Surbiton to join them on 27 points with East Grinstead top and Hampstead dropping to third in the first Top 6 league table.
It’s East Grinstead’s turn to face Wimbledon, four points off the pace in their first home game of Phase Two. In Phase One, East Grinstead won 2-1 at Saint Hill, but Wimbledon have since won all four games to stay in contention for a European place by finishing in the top two.
Hampstead suffered their second successive defeat at Wimbledon after finishing Phase One with a 3-2 defeat at Surbiton and will be hoping to taste victory at Clifton Robinsons at Paddington Recreation Ground after winning 3-1 in Bristol when the teams first met in October.
Third-placed Surbiton host fifth-placed Beeston at Sugden Road, where Beeston lost 2-0 back in September. Beeston have only won once at Surbiton in five visits, 2-1 in November 2018 and with Beeston having failed to score in the four other games, Surbiton will be aiming to keep another clean sheet.
Fight for survival begins
Both fixtures in the Bottom 5, where the bottom two teams will be relegated to Division One are the reverse fixtures for the team’s final matches in Phase One.
Swansea, who have struggled in the top flight this season, lost 4-1 at Holcombe on 27 November and welcome the Kent club to Wales for the first time since September 2020. Holcombe won 5-0 on that occasion but Swansea will target their first points of the season since a 1-1 draw with Buckingham on the opening day of the season.
Due to a postponement, Buckingham didn’t travel to the University of Birmingham until 4 December, when their disappointing form continued, suffering a sixth successive league defeat, Birmingham winning 2-1 after Buckingham had won one and drawn three of their first four league games.
Buckingham are currently two points adrift of safety and four points behind Birmingham and Loughborough in their quest to avoid relegation, which at the start of the season, didn’t appear to be their target. Birmingham won only their second game of the season, having beaten Swansea 4-2, but four draws have seen them edge away from danger.