England: England Hockey League 2023/24 Premier Division Weekend 12 Preview

East Grinstead and Surbiton will serve up a Premier Division top-of-the-table clash on Saturday (4pm) – a match which is unlikely to see another record fall at Saint Hill if form is anything to go by.

Third-placed East Grinstead host the league leaders on a six-game unbeaten run while Surbiton haven’t lost since October.

Both teams’ record Premier Division defeats have occurred in this fixture (East Grinstead going down 8-2 last March, with the home team inflicting a 6-1 win over Surbiton in 2020). 

But Surbiton, who head the table by eight points, head to Sussex looking for their fifth successive win at Saint Hill following their 4-1 win in October. 

Surbiton’s 2-0 win at Hampstead last week was their 11th successive Premier Division win.

Second-placed Reading travel to Bowdon (1:30pm) with healthy away form having won four of five on the road.

Reading’s 2-1 home win in November saw them inflict a first defeat of the season on Bowdon, who have since lost three of their last four.

Nick Clark’s side have also drawn six out of 12 Premier Division matches – the top-flight record being Hightown’s 8 of 14 in 1998-99. The last time these two sides met in the Premier Division at Bowdon ended goalless six years ago this month.

Hampstead & Westminster visit University of Nottingham for the first time on Saturday (4:30pm).

The Londoners have profited in previous meetings (4-1 at home in October and also in an 8-2 win in 2022), but fourth-placed UoN have enjoyed a successful season thus far and head into the fixture with a one-point advantage in the table.

Wimbledon, leading the chase for a top two finish in the Lower Six and qualification for the Premier Division Finals, host bottom side Isca & University of Exeter (2:30pm).

Isca are on an eight-game losing streak while Wimbledon won 6-1 at home in September 2019 when the two sides were in Division One South.

Clifton Robinsons, second in the Lower Six standings, play Beeston (12:15pm) who ended a run of nine matches without a win last weekend with a 1-0 success over University of Birmingham.

Clifton’s Holly Munro has scored in her last two games either side of the mid-season break, but Beeston’s first clean sheet of the season will have given them some much-needed confidence.

Loughborough Students have lost five of their last six matches and will aim to stop the rot when they host fellow university side Birmingham (2pm).

Surbiton kick start their year-long 150th anniversary celebrations with a stand-out clash against league leaders Old Georgians in the Men’s Premier Division.

Saturday’s clash (6pm) sees both sides level on points after racking up over five goals per game on average so far this season and OGs heading to Sugden Road top of the league on goal difference.

Old Georgians’ only defeat this season came against Mark Pearn’s side in September after going unbeaten in 2022-23. 

Alan Forsyth, now with Old Georgians, scored twice for Surbiton in the 4-3 victory in 2019-20 and will hope to notch his first goal against Surbiton in the Premier Division.

Hampstead & Westminster last visited Southgate (4:30pm) – fifth and sixth in the Top Six respectively – in March 2015, drawing 0-0 in their second visit of the month after the original match was abandoned due to an umpire injury.

Hampstead last won at Southgate in September 2012, when they prevailed 2-1.

Meanwhile, Wimbledon’s home match against Holcombe has been postponed until 29 February, with the Londoners’ participating in the ongoing EuroHockey Indoor Club Cup in Vienna.

In the Lower Six, East Grinstead, Oxted and Beeston are separated by just two points with four match days left to secure a top two berth and a ticket to the Premier Division Finals stage.

East Grinstead host Beeston (6pm) in a crucial fixture under the Saint Hill lights.

Beeston won the corresponding fixture 5-3 at home in September but the midlanders have lost six of their last seven matches. Meanwhile, there have been penalty strokes in three of East Grinstead’s last four league games.

Cardiff & Met have lost six of their last seven fixtures and head to free-scoring Oxted (4:30pm).

Oxted have scored 19 goals in their last six Premier Division games and sit one place behind Lower Six leaders East Grinstead.

Both Cardiff and Reading need to make up points if they have Finals Weekend aspirations.

Reading are at home to bottom side University of Nottingham (6pm).

Both Reading victories this season have come at Nottingham Hockey Centre after last week’s 3-2 success against Beeston.

While UoN also bring form after earning their first point of the season at Oxted last weekend.

Stats courtesy of Colin Pike

by England Hockeyl

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