Source: England Hockey

Title race hots up in Vitality Women’s Premier Division

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Following the winter break, the Men’s and Vitality Women’s Hockey Leagues returned with a bang this weekend.

The Vitality Women’s Premier Division now has three teams level on points at the top after an excellent win for Wimbledon over Hampstead & Westminster allowed Surbiton and East Grinstead the opportunity to draw level with the previous leaders, which both took.

There were no Men’s Premier Division matches but it was a busy weekend in Division 1 and the Conferences, with Reading stretching their lead in the race for promotion in the South.

Premier Division

East Grinstead and Surbiton moved level on points with Hampstead & Westminster to create a three-way tie at the top of the Premier Division as Phase 2 of the season got off to a thrilling start.

The Vitality Women’s Premier Division has been split into two for the second half of the campaign and Saturday’s matches saw the Top 6 play their first outdoor matches of 2022.

And Wimbledon put a cat among the pigeons at the summit by inflicting just a second defeat of the season on previous leaders Hampstead & Westminster, winning 2-1 in an all-capital battle.

An action-packed start saw the visitors take a fourth-minute lead through Lauren Turner only for Fiona Burnet to equalise five minutes later.

The sides went into the break level but Burnet’s 53rd-minute strike proved decisive as Wimbledon moved themselves to within four points of the top three.

East Grinstead, in search of a double after their indoor success last weekend, are the new leaders on goal difference after they also came from behind to win 2-1 at Beeston.

Bea Bell put Beeston ahead in the seventh minute but Ellie Rayer struck either side of half-time to turn the game on its head.

An early blitz saw Surbiton ease to a 3-1 success at Clifton Robinsons and retain their unbeaten record.

Sophie Hamilton, Martha Le Huray and Leah Wilkinson ensured Surbiton were three goals to the good inside 12 minutes, meaning Livvy Hoskins’ reply just shy of the hour mark was little more than a consolation.

Vitality Women’s Premier Division – ‘Top 6’

  • Beeston 1-2 East Grinstead
  • Clifton Robinsons 1-3 Surbiton
  • Wimbledon 2-1 Hampstead & Westminster

Division One North

University of Nottingham stayed at the summit thanks to a 6-2 win at Stourport, Maddie Axford’s brace extending her run of consecutive games scored in to 10. Bowdon Hightown and Gloucester City both began the new year in style, hitting six without reply against Olton & West Warwicks and Belper respectively – with both defeated teams still looking for their first wins of the campaign. University of Durham went one better, winning 7-0 against Leicester City, while Brooklands Poynton drew 2-2 in an entertaining clash with Ben Rhydding.

  • Brooklands Poynton 2-2 Ben Rhydding
  • University of Durham 7-0 Leicester City
  • Gloucester City 6-0 Belper
  • Bowdon Hightown 6-0 Olton & West Warwicks
  • Stourport 2-6 University of Nottingham

Division One South

Sevenoaks saw their lead at the top cut to two points as they suffered their first defeat of the season, going down 2-1 at home to Wimbledon 2s. Reading took advantage, winning 3-0 at Harleston Magpies, and the race for the sole promotion spot looks set to heat up as the second half of the season goes on. At the other end, Trojans picked up their first win of the season after edging out Cambridge City 4-3. Canterbury won 3-2 at Surbiton 2s while Isca’s clash with Slough was postponed.

  • Isca P-P Slough
  • Cambridge City 3-4 Trojans
  • Harleston Magpies 3-0 Reading
  • Surbiton 2s 2-3 Canterbury
  • Sevenoaks 1-2 Wimbledon 2s

Conference East

Barnes’ miserly defence came to the fore once more as they won 1-0 at Bromley & Beckenham to stay top. London Wayfarers were impressive 5-1 victors at Canterbury while Chelmsford also had a successful away day, coming back from Hampstead & Westminster 2s with a 2-0 win. East London edged a mid-table clash with Horsham 2-1 and it was a more comfortable afternoon for Southgate, who beat Ipswich 6-1.

  • Hampstead & Westminster 2s 0-2 Chelmsford
  • Bromley & Beckenham 0-1 Barnes
  • Canterbury 2s 1-5 London Wayfarers
  • Southgate 6-1 Ipswich
  • East London 2-1 Horsham

Conference Midlands

The top two both earned victories, leaders Sutton Coldfield beating Cannock 2-1 to stay three points clear of Bedford, who won 3-1 at third-placed St Albans to extend the gap between the two sides to eight points. Loughborough Students defeated Oxford University 3-2 while bottom side Khalsa Leamington went down 2-0 at University of Birmingham. Broxbourne and Beeston 2s played out a 1-1 draw.

  • Sutton Coldfield 2-1 Cannock
  • Loughborough Students 2s 3-2 Oxford University
  • University of Birmingham 2s 2-0 Khalsa Leamington
  • St Albans 1-3 Bedford
  • Broxbourne 1-1 Beeston 2s

Conference North

Leeds moved out on their own at the top after winning 3-0 at Doncaster in a Yorkshire derby. Timperley, who had been level at the summit on goal difference, are now three points back after losing 3-1 at home to Alderley Edge. Wakefield missed a chance to go second as they were beaten 2-0 at bottom side Neston, who picked up just their second victory of the season, but there were no such problems for fellow promotion challengers University of Durham 2s as they ran out 3-0 winners at Pendle Forest. Didsbury Northern beat Fylde 2-1 in a battle of two sides not yet out of the promotion picture.

  • Pendle Forest 0-3 University of Durham 2s
  • Didsbury Northern 2-1 Fylde
  • Doncaster 0-3 Leeds
  • Neston 2-0 Wakefield
  • Timperley 1-3 Alderley Edge

Conference West

The clash between the top two lived up to the billing as Bristol Firebrands and Witney played out a thrilling 3-3 draw, Rebecca Dru equalising for the hosts a minute from time. They are each now a point clear of Oxford Hawks, who slipped to a surprise 1-0 defeat at Penarth. Cheltenham beat Clifton Robinsons 2s by the same scoreline while Basingstoke edged past bottom side University of Bristol by the odd goal in three. Isca’s clash with Team Bath Buccs was postponed.

  • Penarth 1-0 Oxford Hawks
  • Bristol Firebrands 3-3 Witney
  • Basingstoke 2-1 University of Bristol
  • Cheltenham 1-0 Clifton Robinsons 2s
  • Exe P-P Team Bath Buccs

With thanks to England Hockey