Buckingham’s hopes of avoiding relegation come down to the final game of the regular season in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division on Saturday – but they face a match at play-off chasing East Grinstead.
Currently bottom of the table, Buckingham could leapfrog Bowdon Hightown if they win on Saturday and their rivals lose, thereby avoiding automatic relegation and booking a place in the play-offs to preserve their spot in the top flight.
But on the other side of the coin hosts East Grinstead will want to beat Buckingham – and hope Holcombe fail to beat Clifton – in order to climb above them and take the fourth and final place at the League Finals Weekend, which is being staged at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London on April 16-17.
“We’ve been to the play-offs so many times we’re used to it!” said Buckingham Head Coach Zak Jones. “We had quite a few long term injuries before Christmas, and we discussed as a team about how we would make the great escape.
“We wanted to give ourselves the chance to stay up, and we’ve done that. It would be nice to be mid-table and comfortable, but we are where we are.
“It’s frustrating that we missed a stroke against Clifton and we could’ve drawn with Canterbury – if that had happened it would be a very different situation.”
Elsewhere, table-topping Surbiton entertain Leicester as they bid to go unbeaten throughout the 18-match regular season, while second-placed Canterbury are also at home against third-placed University of Birmingham in a clash that will be repeated in the League Finals Weekend.
And in the other top flight clash, Bowdon Hightown will want to ensure they avoid automatic relegation by beating hosts Reading.
In the Investec Conference West, both Bristol Firebrands and Trojans are playing to avoid the threat of relegation. Level on 14 points, the two are locked together and either could face the relegation play-offs.
Trojans host bottom of the table University of Bristol, while Bristol Firebrands go to Oxford Hawks.
Similarly, Maidenhead and Chelmsford are battling to avoid having to play through the relegation play-offs in the Investec Conference East.
Just one point separates them, and Maidenhead host third-placed Wimbledon this Saturday, while Chelmsford face Conference winners Slough at home.
And in the Investec Conference North, champions Wakefield go to the University of Durham, while Ben Rhydding head to Belper and second-placed Beeston are on the road to Springfields as they look to move up to second.
The photo above shows Buckingham’s Amie Hone in action against the University of Birmingham.
FIXTURES – Saturday, March 19
Investec Women’s Premier Division
Clifton v Holcombe 14:00
Canterbury v University of Birmingham 14:00
Reading v Bowdon Hightown 14:00
Surbiton v Leicester 14:00
East Grinstead v Buckingham 14:00
Investec Conference East
Maidenhead v Wimbledon 14:00
Sevenoaks v Ipswich 14:00
Harleston Magpies v Cambridge City 14:00
Hampstead & Westminster v St Albans 14:00
Chelmsford v Slough 14:00
Investec Conference North
Belper v Ben Rhydding 14:00
Springfields v Beeston 14:00
Univ of Durham v Wakefield 14:00
Brooklands Poynton v Liverpool Sefton 14:00
Whitley Bay and Tynemouth v Loughborough Students 14:00
Investec Conference West
Trojans v University of Bristol 14:00
Swansea City v Gloucester City 14:00
Oxford Hawks v Bristol Firebrands 14:00
Isca v Stourport 14:00
Sutton Coldfield v Olton and West Warwicks 14:00
Report courtesy of England Hockey via Snowdon Sports