Men’s Hockey League/ Women’s Hockey League Preview – 3/4 October 2020
East Grinstead are poised to extend their current unbeaten run in the WHL Premier to eighteen games when they host Buckingham on Saturday. Last season, the teams drew 1-1 at Saint Hill, and was the start of the West Sussex’s club’s run which has seen them win 14 and draw 3 matches, after losing the first three games of the 2019-20 season. Buckingham got off the mark with a 3-2 home win over the University of Birmingham and will want to try and prevent East Grinstead going unbeaten for the equivalent of a whole season.
The game at Buckingham was the University of Birmingham’s first game of the season following their bye week in Week 1 and they play for the first time at home this weekend when Surbiton are the visitors to the second city. Surbiton were held to a goalless draw at Loughborough Students last week and will want to get back to winning ways on the road.
Loughborough, who were delighted with last week’s result against the defending champions, head to Bisham Abbey to play Hampstead & Westminster as Paddington Recreation Ground is not available. In their three meetings with Hampstead, including the 2019 Promotion Tournament, Loughborough are yet to score, with Hampstead having won all three encounters. Hampstead did not play last week as it their bye week and will be aiming to build on their opening 2-0 win over Beeston.
Fourth hosts fifth as newly promoted Wimbledon go to Holcombe. Both teams have beaten Swansea, but Wimbledon lost to Clifton Robinsons last week, whilst Holcombe were beaten at home by Loughborough Students on the opening day of the season. Holcombe have a much changed squad from last season and Wimbledon are feeling their way back in the top flight for the first time since 1992-93 for what should prove an intriguing clash.
Normally it would be too early in the season for a match to be termed “a bottom of the table clash”, but with Phase 1 consisting of each team only playing ten matches instead of the traditional eighteen, time is short to fight for a place in the top six and contention for the title. Therefore both Beeston and Swansea, having lost both their games so far without scoring, cannot afford to lose much more ground. Beeston have lost their last four games, but have played Hampstead & Westminster and East Grinstead home and away. Swansea have struggled in their first ever season in the Premier Division, but, in spite of the current lockdown rules in Wales, have dispensation to compete in the WHL and will be keen to overcome all obstacles in their way.
Clifton Robinsons are without a game this week in the WHL.
In the MHL,
both Holcombe and Wimbledon have the opportunity to go top of the Premier Division table on Saturday night. A win for Wimbledon or a draw for Holcombe will be enough as both teams go into the clash unbeaten. Holcombe beat Old Georgians and won at Oxted and Wimbledon drew with Beeston before winning at Brooklands Manchester University last Sunday.
Leaders, Surbiton make the long trip to newly promoted University of Durham on Sunday as Durham try and bounce back from their opening 8-0 defeat at Old Georgians. Durham were promoted as Division One North champions last season and face the daunting task of hosting the defending champions who have scored 13 goals in their first two games – eight against Brooklands and five at Beeston. Old Georgians and Surbiton are probably one of the most difficult starts for a newly promoted team, but Durham will learn from the experience.
East Grinstead won their first two games and are at home to Brooklands Manchester University, who have lost their first two matches. Although current form would suggest a home win, Brooklands have experience of having won at East Grinstead in recent seasons. East Grinstead beat Oxted 2-1 and won 6-2 at the University of Exeter to sit in second on goal difference behind leaders. Surbiton whilst Brooklands lost 8-1 at Surbiton and 4-1 at home to Wimbledon.
Hampstead & Westminster return from their bye week and face a tough test at home to Old Georgians, a test made slightly harder with the match being played at Sonning Lane, Reading, with Paddington Recreation Ground out of use. Hampstead won 5-3 at the University of Exeter and face an Old Georgians squad which lost 3-2 at Holcombe before finding their form with an 8-0 home win over the University of Durham.
There are four teams without a point and two of them, Oxted and the University of Exeter are set to break their duck this weekend. Exeter play their first game away from home in Surrey, having lost to both East Grinstead and Hampstead & Westminster and will see the game as a good opportunity to get their season up and running. Oxted will also be confident in spite of having lost narrowly at East Grinstead and at home to Holcombe as they have been competitive in their first ever season in the Premier Division.
It’s Beeston’s turn to have a bye week in the MHL.