England: Hampstead & Westminster Qualify for Europe for First Time, as Head Injury Stops Play

Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division Review – 9 April 2022

Hampstead & Westminster claimed runners-up spot in the Vitality Women’s Hockey League Premier Division and European qualification for the first time, but only after a dramatic final day for the Top Six competitors.

Hampstead beat East Grinstead 3-1 at Paddington Recreation Ground in a match severely delayed due to a serious injury to a visiting player, to pip Wimbledon, who held champions Surbiton to a 1-1 draw at Sugden Road.

The injury occurred with six minutes to play in the first half when the score was 1-1, Autumn Bowden having given East Grinstead a 21st minute lead before Melanie Wilkinson levelled for Hampstead & Westminster a minute later, both goals coming from open play.

When the game finally resumed at 5 pm, three hours after the scheduled start time, half time was reached with both teams still on equal terms, but Grace Balsdon’s 39th minute penalty corner conversion and Holly Hunt’s open play goal eight minutes from time, secured Hampstead’s place in Europe.

Wimbledon were left anxiously waiting for the Hampstead result after they came from behind to draw at Surbiton. After a goalless first half, Darcy Bourne scored from the penalty spot in the 39th minute, only for Eliza Brett to equalise ten minutes later from open play. With Sophie Bray failing to score for East Grinstead, Bourne finished the Top Six season as the Premier Division’s leading goalscorer on 19 goals, one ahead of Bray.

The other Top Six clash also finished in a draw as Beeston were held 3-3 by Clifton Robinsons. Both teams were assured of fifth and sixth places respectively, but Beeston led 2-0, Paige Gillott scoring the only goal for the first half from an 18th minute penalty corner and Lucy Millington doubling the lead from open play in the 42nd minute. Clifton mounted a comeback with Catherine Macaulay pulling a goal back from open play within a minute and Phoebe Richards converting a penalty corner conversion in the 53rd minute to restore parity at 2-2. Clifton’s comeback was complete when Izzy Webb put them ahead for the first time from a 61st minute open play goal, but Millington earned a point five minutes later, also from open play.

In the Bottom 5, Swansea, who will play in Division One next season had their second bye week of Phase 2. Buckingham still have hopes of finishing seventh as they took advantage of the University of Birmingham’s 3-2 home defeat to Holcombe to close to within two point of the West Midlands students with a 2-1 home win over Loughborough Students, who will now finish tenth. Hannah Irwin gave Loughborough an eleventh minute lead from open play, but Buckingham had Kitty Higgins’ penalty corner expertise to thank for the three points as goals in the 52nd and 67th minutes turned the game around.

Holcombe were always in control in Birmingham after Ivanna Pessina scored in the fifth minute. Maria Fuentes doubled the lead four minutes before the interval with Jess Davis pulled a goal back on the stroke of half time. Emma Bandurak restored Holcombe’s two goal advantage on the hour and although Pippa Lock reduced the hosts’ deficit to 3-2 with the fifth penalty corner conversion of the match, Holcombe saw out their final match of the season to finish ninth.

2Hampstead & Westminster20131646311540
4East Grinstead20120850331736
6Clifton Robinsons2045113057-2717
Vitality Premier Division Top 6
1University of Birmingham176652729-224
4Loughborough Students1741122547-2213
Vitaity Premier Division Bottom 6

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