Surbiton closed to within one point of leaders Holcombe following their 2-0 home win over bottom club Canterbury and Holcombe’s 1-1 draw at Bowdon Hightown where Bowdon snatched a point with a last gasp equaliser.
Canterbury’s defeat virtually confirms their automatic relegation from the top flight after Slough beat Clifton Robinsons 2-0 to extend their lead over Canterbury to seven points with only nine points available.
With their internationals back in club colours after the first instalment of the FIH Pro League, Surbiton dominated the game at Sugden Road with Canterbury rarely posing an attacking threat. However the failure to finish which had led to the reigning champions losing 1-0 at the University of Birmingham seven days earlier almost came back to haunt them again.
Canterbury had Grace Balsdon, Sioned Fox and Eugenia Bianchi to thank in the first half for thwarting Surbiton attacks, with goalkeeper Helen Fagg saving from Jenna Woolven to keep the scoreline goalless at half time.
Woolven fired past the right post within seconds of the start of the second half, but it was Alice Sharp who finally broke the deadlock in the 40th minute. A short run down the left followed by a shot which eluded Fagg and rebounded off the inside of the right sideboard to ease the pressure on Surbiton.
Hannah Martin proved a problem for the Canterbury defence to cope with as she kept possession whilst evaluating the best way to improve Surbiton’s attacking potential. As usual, Mel Clewlow was at the heart of the Canterbury defence.
For all their domination, Surbiton still only led 1-0 with two minutes remaining with Giselle Ansley having been thwarted from penalty corner awards. Georgie Twigg finished off Surbiton’s sixth penalty corner in the 68th minute to end Canterbury’s faint hopes of salvaging an unlikely point and keep Surbiton in contention for top spot in the Premier Division at the end of the regular season.
Slough’s hopes of avoiding the Promotion Tournament were boosted as the University of Birmingham lost 3-1 at East Grinstead to leave Slough trailing the Midlands students by just one point. East Grinstead remained third, but Buckingham took advantage of Clifton’s defeat to move into fourth with a come from behind 2-1 victory at Beeston, whose chances of sneaking into the playoffs were all but ended.
Holcombe and Surbiton are very close to booking their places in the playoffs and Clifton Robinsons are likely to need to take points off Surbiton on 16 March to stay in contention for a playoff place.
Scorers: Alice Sharp 40-F, Georgie Twigg 68-PC
Squad: Sabbie Heesh (GK); Giselle Ansley, Sarah Evans, Georgie Twigg (Capt.), Holly Payne, Emily Atkinson, Susie Catlin, Jenna Woolven, Alice Sharp, Izzy Petter, Michaela Curtis.
Subs: Hannah Martin (6 mins), Emily Defroand (8), Olivia Chilton (9), Darcy Bourne (11), Ella Burnley (14)
Squad: Helen Fagg (GK); Eugenia Bianchi, Grace Balsdon, Mel Clewlow, Lucy Stewart, Sian Emslie, Agustina Alvarez, Lucy Barnes (Capt.), Sioned Fox, Ailsa Naylor, Elizabeth Jenkins.
Subs: Nicki Ball (11 mins), Tilly Tillings (11), Sophie Pinney (13), Anna Baker (13).
Sub not used: Mary Flint
Match Official: Ray Strudwick
Umpires: Helen Sargeant and Clare White