England: England Hockey League 2023/24 Premier Division Weekend 11 Preview

Hampstead & Westminster will aim to record a first home victory over league leaders Surbiton on Saturday afternoon (3:45pm)

Surbiton have won all three previous meetings on the road at Paddington Rec ahead of the return of Premier Division action this weekend.

Hannah French scored twice in the 3-1 win in October and a brace in Surbiton’s 5-3 League Finals semi-final at Sugden Road last April.

Reading, who sit second after a fine start to the season in Phase 1, will also be out to topple East Grinstead for the first time in the Premier Division.

Saturday’s fixture (4:30pm) will be the third top flight meeting at Sonning Lane in a row since Reading won promotion from Division One South. East Grinstead have won five out of six encounters.

University of Nottingham and Bowdon, who both secured Top Six places on the final day of Phase 1, meet in Nottingham (4:30pm).

The sides drew 2-2 in October, while UoN did the league double over Bowdon on their way to winning promotion from Division One North in 2021-22.

The start of the Lower Six sees University of Birmingham head the table on goal difference.

They travel to Beeston on Saturday (4pm), the hosts seeking their first Premier Division victory since September. The last Premier Division meeting saw Beeston win 2-0 in 2022.

Clifton Robinsons host bottom side Isca & University of Exeter (4:30pm), with the Bristol side also seeking form improvement and a first Premier Division win in five. 

Robbies won 2-0 on the road on the opening day of the season, while Isca failed to score in six of 11 games in Phase 1.

Wimbledon, second on goal difference, travel to Loughborough Students (2pm). The sides drew 0-0 in London in October, while the last meeting at Loughborough also ended in a 2-2 draw in October 2022.

Holcombe travel to Men’s Premier Division leaders Old Georgians on Saturday night (6pm) aiming to topple the champions for the first time since 2020.

Barry Middleton’s side last beat Old Georgians 3-2 in the Covid-curtailed season who have since gone on a seven-game winning streak over Holcombe, including the League Finals.

However, Holcombe’s performances in Phase 1 (nine wins from 11) suggest that this weekend’s encounter will be an eye-catching affair.

Holcombe travel with Nick Bandurak, fresh from making history this week when he became the first athlete to win three Hockey Writers’ Club player of the year awards in a row after winning the Mercian men’s award.

Wimbledon are also on the road on Saturday (5:45pm) when they travel for a London derby at Hampstead & Westminster.

Karl Stagno’s side start Phase 2 having lost 3-2 at home to H&W before going on a run of five successive wins. Wimbledon won both meetings with Hampstead in 2022-23 by the same scoreline: 4-2.

Surbiton’s hosting of Southgate (6pm) will be a first Premier Division meeting at Sugden Road between the two sides since February 2015 when Surbiton ran out 6-1 winners.

Southgate, who confirmed their Top Six status before the final weekend of Phase 1, last beat Surbiton in the top-flight in 2011, while this season they have kept sides busy to the last, thanks to scoring four times in the 70th minute of games.

In the Lower Six, Beeston and Reading (6pm) will renew rivalries having faced each other in the last match of Phase 1. The Bees host the Blues having won 2-0 at Sonning Lane in November.

Beeston’s victory ended a run of five defeats in a row and extended Reading’s losing run to seven games.

Cardiff & Met host East Grinstead (6pm) in a reverse of the fixture which heralded the teams first National League meeting, the West Sussex club running out 2-1 winners.

Cardiff & Met finished Phase 1 with five successive defeats and will be looking to taste home success for the first time in the top flight.

Oxted won 4-1 at University of Nottingham in the first match between the teams in the East Midlands. This time Oxted host Nottingham (4:30pm). Both meetings in 2022-23 were in Surrey, Oxted winning 3-1 in March 2023 and drawing 0-0 in October 2022.

*All Stats provided by Colin Pike

by England Hockeyl

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