Investec Women’s Hockey League Championship Final
Surbiton 3 Holcombe 1
Surbiton Ladies experienced dêja-vu when they beat Holcombe 3-1 for the second year running to become Investec Women’s Hockey League champions for the fifth successive season at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
Surbiton won the title in spite of Captain Sarah Haycroft being sidelined due to injury. Georgie Twigg took over the captaincy with Haycroft able to join in with the post-match celebrations on the pitch.
Having lost twice to fourth-placed Buckingham in the regular season, Surbiton with most of their international players available, won the third meeting 3-0, but needed two goals in the final five minutes to make sure of their place in the final. Joint leading divisional goal scorer Giselle Ansley’s drag-flick gave Surbiton a tenth minute lead, but Buckingham still had hope until Hollie Pearne-Webb found the backboard, again from a penalty corner in the 55th minute. Buckingham installed Rebecca van Berkel as a kicking back to increase their attacking options but Holly Payne took advantage to slot the ball into an empty goal to complete the victory in the 58th minute.
Holcombe came from behind to beat East Grinstead, and also left it late to book their place in the final. Georgie Blackwood scored just before half time, but Joanne Westwood equalised from a penalty corner in the 55th minute and Ellie Watton scored the winner with just two minutes left to earn Holcombe a rematch with Surbiton.
Surbiton were quickly out of the traps in the final as Holcombe were stunned twice in the first ten minutes. Beckie Middleton’s cross from the left was deftly tapped in by Sarah Page with the ball just below the crossbar in the eighth minute. Two minutes later, Pearne-Webb scored her second goal of the weekend, finding the backboard from a penalty corner to put Holcombe under pressure.
Surbiton dominated possession but had to wait until four minutes before half time to add a third, Middleton deflecting the ball from Surbiton’s fifth penalty corner to leave Holcombe with a mountain to climb in the second half.
Holcombe pulled a goal back five minutes into the second half, Heather McEwan able to finish from Surbiton’s back-line, slipping the ball in just inside the right post from a very narrow angle. Surbiton had chances to add further goals but Jo Hunter shot past the left post, Twigg blazed the ball high over the crossbar and Holly Payne was denied by good defensive work by Westwood near the end.
Surbiton recalled veteran goalkeeper Abi Walker for the finals, Walker having helped Surbiton to the Investec Championships Tier One final versus Clifton Robinson on 5 May, with a quarter-final win over Hampstead & Westminster and a semi-final victory over Brooklands Poynton. Youngster, Ellie Shahbo, who has more than played her part in helping Surbiton to top spot in the Premier Division over the second half of the season, replaced Walker in goal for the final 45 seconds for her deserved moment of glory in the spotlight.
Holcombe will be disappointed to be runners-up for a second successive season, but they have the consolation of being ranked as England’s second club in Europe next season. As things stand they would play in the EuroHockey Club Trophy as they will this season, but if Holcombe can win the Trophy and Surbiton perform well in the top division cup, England might regain enough ranking points to replace Germany as the second ranked country in Europe for the 2018-19 season and allow both Surbiton and Holcombe to compete in the Cup.
Scorers: Sarah Page 8-F, Hollie Pearne-Webb 10-PC, Beckie Middleton 26-PC
Squad: Giselle Ansley, Georgie Twigg (Capt.), Jo Hunter, Hannah Martin, Emily Atkinson, Emily Defroand, Beckie Middleton, Hollie Pearne-Webb, Holly Payne, Alice Sharp, Abi Walker (GK),
Subs: Sarah Page (7 mins), Robyn Collins (9), Olivia Chilton (14), Jenna Woolven (14), Anabel Herzsprung (20), Stephanie Addison (23), Ellie Shahbo (GK) (60).
Squad: Rose Thomas (GK); Joanne Westwood, Heather McEwan, Emma Trunks, Sarah Jones, Phillippa Lewis, Harriet Pittard, Ellie Watton, Beth Bingham, Steph Elliott (Capt.), Leah Wilkinson,
Subs: Leisa Randall (7 mins), Sophie Eldred (9), Aspen Cumming (15)
Umpires: Frances Block and Cathy Wright
Colin Pike| Images: Peter Smith, Tim Reder