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

East Grinstead’s fine start to Phase 2 in the Women’s Premier Division continued apace on Saturday with a 1-0 win over league leaders Surbiton.

Premier Division top scorer Tess Howard’s 33rd minute strike – her 12th of the season – proved the difference as East Grinstead recorded their first home win over Surbiton since the 2019-20 season.

“It’s fantastic to put in a performance like we did. We know during Phase 2 that we are building towards our peak,” said East Grinstead coach Theo Dowse.

“What this game demonstrated was that we aren’t just a team who can score goals, we are resolute in defence and can be a tough team to break down.”

Both teams applied pressure in the first half but East Grinstead’s tight defence saw Surbiton fail to score away from home in the Premier Division regular season for the first time since September 2020, a run of 24 matches.

“It’s a great building block in our overall team goal of peaking later in the season,” added Dowse.

Surbiton’s defeat puts Reading five points behind in second after their 5-1 win at Bowdon.

Robert Foxall-Smith’s side completed the league double and their first win at Bowdon since 2015, with goals from Phoebe Nixon, Rebecca Kaps, Mia Moore, Lizzie Gittens and Francesca Clements.

Hampstead & Westminster also beat University of Nottingham for the second time this season after a 3-1 win in Nottingham.

Rachel Greenwood’s 12th minute opener was followed up by two second-half penalty corner goals from Lily Owsley and Anna O’Flanagan.

In the Lower 6, Wimbledon and Clifton Robinsons opened up gaps in the race for a top two berth with three games left ahead of the Premier Division Finals.

Saskia Lawrence opened the scoring for Isca & University of Exeter before hosts Wimbledon rallied through Olivia Chilton and Jennifer Eadie. Wimbledon survived late green cards to hold off the bottom side.

Clifton Robinsons scored successive 3-2 wins after holding off Beeston in Bristol.

Holly Munro, Livvy Hoskins and Izzy Webb all netted in the first half, either side of Cerys Miller and Rosy Stephens’ goals for the visitors.

Beeston’s last seven defeats out of nine have all been by single goal margins.

University of Birmingham sit four points behind Robbies in third after a 3-3 draw at Loughborough Students.

Lotty Hobson and Amy Grassom scored in the 58th and 60th minute as UoB rallied from 3-1 down. It was a third draw in four meetings between the two sides.

East Grinstead and Beeston served up another entertaining goalfest at Saint Hill as the battle for a Men’s Premier Division Finals ticket intensified on Saturday night.

A brace from Henry Croft – his fifth goal in his last three games – and Jamie Rawlings led the way for Beeston in a 6-4 win as East Grinstead lost their fourth home game in succession.

“It was a bit of a Premier Division classic. There was some great attacking hockey on display and both teams played their part,” said Beeston’s captain Gareth Griffiths, who also scored their fourth.

“Our manager Graham Griffiths produced a motivational speech before the match which he does a couple of times per season and always seems to time it perfectly. He reminded us of our roles, gave us a history lesson in this fixture and it got us fired up.”

With Beeston having won 5-3 at home in September, this fixture has provided 18 goals already this season. And Griffiths said that tightening up their defence was now a key target.

He said: “Our primary aim is to finish top of the Lower Six. We experienced that last season and we believe that we can turn any team over on our day, but there are teams in the league who do have big threats.

“Defensive aspects of the game is a big focus for us and if we can limit teams’ chances we know we have enough firepower to score goals and pose big threats of our own.”

Meanwhile, Oxted stayed top of the Lower Six after a 3-2 win over Cardiff & Met.

A game littered with nine cards, including three yellow, was settled in a five-minute spell in the second-half when Oxted bagged three goals through coach Nick Giles, Michael Royden-Turner and Guy Morgan.

Having lost all 11 games in 2023, University of Nottingham are unbeaten in 2024 after winning their first of the season, 3-2 at Reading.

Harry Stone, Luke Holland and Oliver Lander scored first-half goals to set up the win.

In the Top Six, Old Georgians opened up a three-point lead at the top following a 3-2 victory over rivals Surbiton at Sugden Road.

James Carson, with a double, and Tom Carson, who scored OGs’ fourth, continued their indoor form into the outdoor arena as the champions netted their 11th successive win.

Surbiton, who scored via Luke Taylor’s penalty stroke and corner goals,  have now lost three out of four home Premier Division meetings with Old Georgians.

Fifth-placed Hampstead & Westminster beat Southgate 4-2. This was Hampstead’s first win at Southgate since September 2012, with Matt Guise-Brown’s late penalty corner double securing the points.

*All Stats provided by Colin Pike

Images by: Andy Smith

by England Hockeyl

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