Source: England Hockey

Vitality Women’s Hockey League (5 March)

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Premier Division – ‘Top 6’

The nature of this new Phase 2 ‘Top 6’ format has given the Vitality Women’s Premier Division an almost weekly billing of crucial matches in the race for Europe.

And that will be no different on Saturday at Paddington Rec for Hampstead & Westminster. They play host to Surbiton in another top-of-the-table encounter, with Kate Richardson-Walsh and Sarah Kelleher’s side having got their second half of the season back on track last weekend with a first win in five.

Surbiton, unbeaten in 14, prevailed at home 3-2 in the pair’s last encounter in November – a win which also ended Hampstead & Westminster’s nine-game winning streak – and now both are aiming for championship honours, as well as enhancing their chance of a European spot.

Hampstead’s co-coach Richardson-Walsh said: “It should be a great match. We will try to stamp our authority on the game, show what we can do and try and get a bit more positive momentum into the second half of our season.”

Hampstead & Westminster welcome back England international Grace Balsdon into the fold after missing last week’s match, while the Londoners are now missing Kate McCaw to a hamstring tear and Meg Byass to a suspected ACL. “We have to use a big squad like every season and it’s great that ourselves and the 2s are closely linked,” added Richardson-Walsh.

After their 6-0 defeat last weekend against Surbiton, East Grinstead will hope to rely on home comforts and a return to goalscoring form against Clifton Robinsons.

Their away defeat to the champions was East Grinstead’s biggest in the Premier Division and they now take on the Bristol side sitting sixth and who last won on November 6. East Grinstead have racked up five wins from seven home fixtures this season.

In the third Top 6 match of the weekend, Wimbledon face Beeston. The London side remain in fourth, with in-form Fiona Burnet having scored five goals in her last three games. Beeston return to Raynes Park on Saturday aiming to atone for their 6-0 defeat last October.

2pm East Grinstead v Clifton Robinsons
2pm Hampstead & Westminster v Surbiton
2pm Wimbledon v Beeston

Premier Division

In the Bottom 5, Buckingham head to Loughborough Students, with both sides buoyed by victories last weekend. The Students moved level on points and behind on goal difference with University of Birmingham at the top of the mini league following a 1-0 win over basement side Swansea, while Buckingham also won away (2-0) at Holcombe.

With Swansea in a precarious position at the bottom on two points, a win for Buckingham – who sit above the Welsh side – will keep the pressure on the three sides above them in the Bottom 5.

Buckingham have lost their two previous matches at Loughborough – but did win 1-0 at home against Brett Holland’s side in October.

In the second match of the day, Holcombe take on University of Birmingham, unbeaten in three. The two sides drew 2-2 at Holcombe back in September. In the previous five visits to the Medway, Birmingham had lost by a 3-1 scoreline each time.

2pm Holcombe v University of Birmingham
2pm Loughborough Students v Buckingham

Division One North

Maddie Axford’s 20th goal of the season during a 5-0 defeat of Gloucester City last weekend kept University of Nottingham at the top of Division 1 North. This is a huge month for the university side, as well as for second-placed Bowdon, ahead of the two clubs’ eagerly-anticipated meeting at the end of the month.

Nottingham, who have won eight in a row, start March with a trip to fifth-placed Leicester City, who now look out of the reckoning for a promotion berth.

Nottingham’s season-long rivals Bowdon have a home fixture against Brooklands Poynton. Their only defeat this season came at home to the league leaders in November.

12pm Olton & West Warwickshire v Stourport
12pm Durham University v Belper
1:30pm Bowdon v Brooklands Poynton
1:30pm Ben Rhydding v Gloucester City
3:30pm Leicester City v University of Nottingham

Division One South

It’s a table-topper to savour this weekend which sees new leaders Reading take on Sevenoaks at Sonning Lane in Division One South and the battle for promotion to the women’s top flight.

The two sides are level on points, with Reading holding the better goal difference, while the pair couldn’t be separated when they drew 3-3 back in October.

Reading and Sevenoaks both head into the clash with one defeat to their name this season.

Meanwhile, it’s third against fourth, with Slough – five points behind the leaders – aiming to close the gap on the top when they travel to Canterbury.

There’s a double header for Wimbledon 2 this weekend as they play Harleston Magpies on Saturday, before taking on Isca & University of Exeter the following day. This has come about following a postponement on the weekend of 22 February. England Hockey is grateful to everyone involved for rearranging this match.

12pm Trojans v Isca & University of Exeter
1:30pm Harleston Magpies v Wimbledon 2
1:30pm Surbiton 2 v Cambridge City
2pm Canterbury v Slough
4:30pm Reading v Sevenoaks

Sunday 6 March
12pm Isca & University of Exeter v Wimbledon 2

Conference East

Barnes last conceded a goal seven matches ago, in late October against East London, and the tightest defence in the Conference head into their weekend encounter on the back of four 1-0 victories.

The league leaders face an away test against Chelmsford, who are unbeaten since the restart following a run of four matches unbeaten in the Conference East.

Second-placed Southgate’s defence is also on song and last shipped a goal three matches ago. They face Hampstead & Westminster 2, who have lost three of their last four.

Matches are running out for basement side Canterbury 2. On the back of an 8-2 defeat to East London, the Kent side travel to eighth-placed Ipswich.

12pm Hampstead & Westminster 2 v Southgate
12:30pm London Wayfarers v Horsham
2pm Ipswich v Canterbury 2
3:30pm Chelmsford v Barnes
6pm East London v Bromley & Beckenham

Conference Midlands

Sutton Coldfield have lost just once in two years and their form in the Conference Midlands 2021/22 season has now seen them open up an eight-point gap at the top.

The team with the meanest defence in the division host mid-table Loughborough Students 2 on Saturday, having also surpassed 50 goals for the season.

Chasers Bedford, meanwhile, play host to University of Birmingham, who are matching Sutton Coldfield as the league’s form team after four straight wins.

Six points is the difference from Cannock in seventh to bottom side Khalsa Leamington in 10th. Khalsa are at home to Broxbourne in a crucial basement encounter.

1pm St Albans v Beeston 2
12pm Sutton Coldfield v Loughborough Students 2
12pm Khalsa Leamington v Broxbourne
1:30pm Cannock v Oxford University
1:30pm Bedford v University of Birmingham 2

Conference North

Leeds, unbeaten in five, hold a six-point lead over Didsbury Northern and travel to Fylde this weekend intent on extending the gap at the top of Conference North.

However, Nicky Kellett has notched five goals in her last three games for Didsbury Northern – who take on Doncaster at home – as they look to close the gap on Leeds.

At the other end, Pendle Forest’s recent form has contributed to six without a win as they stay bottom. The Lancashire outfit play Cheshire side Neston, who sit two points above.

Four teams have two games this weekend as it is the slip date for matches postponed on the weekend of 22 February. England Hockey is grateful to teams, officials and umpires and those responsible for appointments for their support in rearranging these matches.

11:30am Pendle Forest v Neston
12pm Didsbury Northern v Doncaster
1:30pm Fylde v Leeds
2pm Alderley Edge v Wakefield
4pm Timperley v Durham University 2

Sunday 6 March
11:30am Pendle Forest v Alderley Edge
12pm Fylde v Wakefield

Conference West

Ellie Brooks failed to score for only the third time this season but that did not deter Exe from keeping up the pressure on Conference West leaders Witney last weekend.

Exe, following their tight 3-2 home win over Clifton Robinsons 2, are one point behind Witney, who are still unbeaten since the opening day of the season when they lost 6-5 against Bristol Firebrands.

Both are on the road this weekend, with Witney heading to University of Bristol, who have leaked 20 goals in their last four matches.

Meanwhile Exe face an away trip to Penarth, the only team in the league to have won their last two matches after a fine restart to the campaign.

11:30am Clifton Robinson 2 v Bristol Firebrands
12pm Oxford Hawks v Team Bath Buccaneers
12:30pm Penarth v Exe
1pm University of Bristol v Witney
2pm Basingstoke v Cheltenham

With thanks to England Hockey