Reading will be relegated from the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division if they fail to win at home to relegation rivals Brooklands Manchester University on Sunday.
Trailing by four points with just two games to play after a disappointing season which has seen them win once, 2-1 at home to Beeston back in December and draw three games, Reading are set to end a run of 27 successive seasons in the top flight.
The University of Exeter are battling with Reading and Brooklands to avoid finishing ninth and face the loser of the Division One North and South playoff over two legs to preserve their Premier Division status. Exeter travel to Old Georgians, now assured of a Championship playoff place after two wins last weekend.
With the top four teams now known, second-placed Hampstead & Westminster, third-placed Wimbledon and fourth-placed Old Georgians will jockey for position over the last two rounds of matches. Surbiton clinched top spot last weekend and travel to Beeston with the aim of continuing their momentum towards the playoffs.
This season the top two teams will play their semi-finals at home, so there is an additional incentive to finish second. Hampstead travel to East Grinstead, defeated 5-0 in their last two games at home to Surbiton and at Old Georgians. Wimbledon are at home to Holcombe, whose playoff hopes were finally ended by Old Georgians’ qualification last weekend.
In the Investec Women’s Hockey League, Buckingham will be hoping to join Surbiton, East Grinstead and Hampstead & Westminster in the Championship playoffs when they host Hampstead on Saturday. In a crazy situation below the playoff places, the teams from fifth to ninth are separated by just one point as mathematically, all five teams could finish ninth and battle relegation, or pip Buckingham for the fourth playoff place, although goal difference realistically will rule some teams out.
Beeston are at home to East Grinstead, battling with Hampstead for second place and a home semi-final. East Grinstead moved up to second last weekend with a 6-0 win at Loughborough Students while Hampstead lost 3-2 at home to regular season champions, Surbiton. Loughborough’s defeat saw them drop from fifth to ninth in the constantly changing league table.
Holcombe dropped to eighth, ahead of Loughborough only on goals scored after a 1-1 home draw with Clifton Robinsons and are at home to in-form University of Birmingham, currently on a three game win streak.
Clifton Robinsons visit Surbiton and Loughborough go to Bowdon Hightown, preparing for life below the top tier for the first time since the Investec Women’s Hockey League was formed, after relegation was confirmed last week by a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of the University of Birmingham.
Could @readinghc’s 27 year run of #topflight hockey come to an end this weekend? Read the full league preview here http://bit.ly/32YlfYYTweet
Images by: Helen Ritchie Photography