One Point From Being Crowned Division Winners (Again)

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Surbiton 3 East Grinstead 1

Surbiton Ladies need one point from their final league game against Buckingham next Saturday to finish top of the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division and qualify for European hockey next season.

On a weekend when the arctic weather returned to cause more havoc and fixture congestion, Surbiton saw off East Grinstead’s attempts to take the initiative in hockey’s top flight with a 3-1 win at a bitterly cold Sugden Road.

East Grinstead came to Elmbridge having won their last three league games but fell behind in the sixth minute, Emily Atkinson putting the finishing touch to Surbiton’s first penalty corner of the match. East Grinstead trailed Surbiton by three points with a game in hand at the start of play and fought their way back into the match in the 17th minute, Bridget Blackwood scoring from open play.

Former Surbiton player, Chloe Palmer had helped East Grinstead’s cause by scoring four goals since joining the Saint Hill club during the winter break, but in spite of forcing five penalty corners, the visitors were unable to capitalise on their set-pieces.

In contrast, having experienced problems earlier in the year, Surbiton perfected their penalty corner routine, Giselle Ansley restoring the reigning champions’ lead in the 29th minute, not with a trademark drag-flick but by smashing a rebound into the netting beyond East Grinstead goalkeeper, Amy Tennant.

Ansley and Hollie Pearne-Webb were both denied in the second half by Tennant as East Grinstead still harboured hopes of getting something out of the match before Pippa Chapman committed a foul in the circle which earned her a yellow card and Surbiton a penalty stroke in the final minute of the match.

Ansley, Surbiton’s penalty stroke specialist this season, duly slotted the ball past Tennant to score her fifth goal from the penalty spot this season and eleventh in total to overtake the University of Birmingham’s Erica Sanders as the Premier Division’s leading goalscorer before travelling to the Gold Coast for next month’s Commonwealth Games.

East Grinstead included Gold Coast bound internationals, Tennant, Ellie Rayer and Laura Unsworth in their squad and like Holcombe, will need to win both of their remaining league games and hope Surbiton slip up at Stowe School to have a chance of overtaking Surbiton at the top of the table on goal difference.

Both Holcombe and East Grinstead saw their attempts to reduce their fixture headaches thwarted by the weather as Holcombe Park was snowbound on Saturday and Polo Farm on Sunday, both teams due to face Canterbury over the weekend.

The University of Birmingham’s chances of topping the table were finally ended by a 2-2 draw at Leicester, Buckingham keeping up their hopes of sneaking into the top four with a 4-3 win at Clifton Robinsons. Slough and Bowdon Hightown fought out a goalless draw for the second time this season.

All four rearranged matches on Sunday were postponed.

With next Saturday’s fixtures originally scheduled to be the last day of the season, all matches will start at 2 pm, but whilst Surbiton currently have no league fixture problems, their Championship Tier One quarter-final at Hampstead & Westminster is another matter. Originally scheduled for 18 March, Hampstead rearranged their home game with Sevenoaks for that date, but with their match at St. Albans on 17 March also postponed, Hampstead have both league matches to reschedule, having provisionally moved the quarter-final to 25 March.

Surbiton:

Scorers: Emily Atkinson 6-PC, Giselle Ansley 29-PC, 70-PS.

Squad: Giselle Ansley, Sarah Haycroft (Capt.), Georgie Twigg, Hannah Martin, Emily Atkinson, Emily Defroand, Beckie Middleton, Hollie Pearne-Webb, Alice Sharp, Anabel Herzsprung, Ellie Shahbo (GK).

Subs: Jo Hunter (8 mins), Sarah Page (9), Holly Payne (9), Izzy Petter (14), Ella Burnley (32).

East Grinstead:

Scorer: Bridget Blackwood 17-F.

Squad: Amy Tennant (GK); Pippa Chapman, Bridget Blackwood, Zoe Burrell, Laura Unsworth, Ruth Gordon (Capt.), Maud van der Kamp, Chloe Palmer, Jenny Storey, Amy Thompson, Natasha Brennan.

Subs: Georgie Blackwood (6 mins), Ellie Rayer (6), Alexandra Malzer (11), Josephine Blunt (13), Ashlie Samra (15).

Match Official: Jo Pennycook.

Umpires: Frances Block and Emma Shelbourn.

Colin Pike
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