Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division
Leicester 1 Surbiton 2
Surbiton Ladies extended their lead at the top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division to three points after winning 2-1 at Leicester on Saturday and Buckingham lost 4-0 at the University of Birmingham on Sunday. Buckingham had ended 2017 in second place, two points behind the reigning champions but Birmingham replaced them as Surbiton’s nearest challengers following their comprehensive victory.
Hollie Pearne-Webb made her first league appearance of the season for Surbiton in the East Midlands, whilst Anabel Herzsprung, a new signing from German club Harvestehuder, made her league debut for the Sugden Road club having previously played in a friendly tournament in Barcelona and in the Jaffa Super 6s Division One competition.
Both teams battled in bitterly cold temperatures and in rain and sleet as the national league resumed after the mid-season break.
Surbiton dominated possession and were unlucky not to score from their first attack, former Leicester player Holly Payne forcing a fine save from Caitlin Jeffries in the home goal. Hannah Martin also had an early attempt on goal saved.
For all their attacking intent, Surbiton broke the deadlock courtesy of their penalty corner routine, although there will be disappointment that having forced a total of thirteen penalty corners in the match, only two came to fruition.
Giselle Ansley found the backboard in the tenth minute as first indications were that Surbiton were on course to cruise to victory.
However five minutes later, Leicester were level, Elizabeth Honarmand’s shot from the left of the circle too powerful for young Surbiton goalkeeper, Ellie Shahbo to save. Although Shahbo managed to get a touch, there was nothing she could do to prevent the ball rocketing into the top right corner of the goal.
Leicester’s Kathryn Lane and Lucy Briscoe worked hard in defence in the first half to help the home team, starting the match in ninth place, contain Surbiton’s forwards and ensure the teams were still level at 1-1 at half time.
In the second half, Pearne-Webb found the backboard from Surbiton’s fifth penalty corner of the match in the 40th minute to score what was destined to be the winning goal. With Surbiton seemingly able to force penalty corners at will and using a mixture of drag-flicks and manoeuvred routines, a combination of Jeffries saves, shots off target and a goal-line stop from Rachael Mack prevented the visitors from extending their lead.
With Leicester only trailing by a single goal, there was still a chance that they could snatch a point, Surbiton grateful to Emily Defroand for intercepting the hosts’ only penalty corner of the second half with seven minutes to play.
After a few anxious moments, the final whistle blew to confirm Surbiton’s victory. East Grinstead temporarily moved into second with a 3-1 win at Slough, Chloe Palmer opening the scoring on her league debut for the West Sussex club against another of her former clubs having recently left Surbiton.
Canterbury earned a point in a 1-1 at Clifton Robinsons to move to within one point of Leicester and will visit Surbiton on 10 February. The first game at Polo Farm ended in a 2-2 draw on the opening day of the season.
Scorers: Giselle Ansley 10-PC, Hollie Pearne-Webb 40-PC
Squad: Giselle Ansley, Sarah Haycroft (Capt.), Georgie Twigg, Hannah Martin, Emily Atkinson, Beckie Middleton, Hollie Pearne-Webb, Holly Payne, Alice Sharp, Anabel Herzsprung, Ellie Shahbo (GK).
Subs: Jo Hunter (7″), Emily Defroand (7″), Olivia Chilton (10″), Ella Burnley (14″)
Umpires: Gill Lord and Cathy Wright
Match Official: John Anderson
Authur: Colin Pike | Photos: Andy Smith