Men’s Hockey League Premier Division
THE NEXT EDITION OF HOCKEY TALK WILL
BE UPLOADED DURING THE AFTERNOON OF
MONDAY 7 MARCH
PREMIER DIVISION MOVES
Investec Women’s League Premier Division:
No changes this week
Men’s Hockey League:
No changes this week
LEAGUES’ TOP SCORERS
Our table this week continues to be dominated by penalty corner strikers. Richmond’s Charlie Ellison was not on the list of scorers over the weekend but stays ahead with a total of 24, one ahead of Loughborough Student’s Luke Taylor. Taylor moved closer after a late penalty corner against Olton moved him up to 23. Euan Gilmour remains in third place with 21.
1. Charlie Ellison (Con. East, Richmond) 23 penalty corners, 1 penalty stroke.
2. Luke Taylor (Con. North, Loughborough Students) 23 penalty corners.
3. Euan Gilmour (Con. East, Cambridge City) 18 field goals, 3 penalty strokes.
This week our table shows no change. Rather unusually none of our top three scored over the weekend. Looking to see who is “bubbling under” we have Gloucester City’s Zoe Burford with 12 goals, and three players on 11. They are Tess Howard (Cambridge City), Sally Gibson (Trojans) and Megan Crowson (Isca). NB: Sorry – there was a error in our table last week. Amy Sheehan has scored 16 field goals and not 17.
1. Amy Sheehan (Con. East, Slough) 16 field goals, 1 penalty stroke.
2. Sophie Robinson (Con. North, Beeston) 13 field goals, 1 penalty corner, 2 penalty strokes.
3. Vicky Woolford (Con. West, Sutton Coldfield) 5 field goals, 9 penalty corners.
NB: Where there is an equality of goals we use the standard convention of giving less value to penalty corners and strokes than field goals.
THE NAUGHTY BOYS’ (AND GIRLS) BRIGADE
With Oxted still the only side on a red card, they remain in top spot with one red and 16 yellows. We have a tie for second place, with Canterbury and Teddington both on 19 yellows, with Sevenoaks close behind with 18.
No change this weekend in the women’s hall of infamy. University of Durham still lead the table with nine yellows, with Whitley Bay & Tynemouth and Olton & West Warwicks both on eight.
Investec Women’s Premier League
England Hockey League
Men’s Conferences Highlights
29 February 2016
WOMEN’S PREMIER TOO CLOSE TO CALL
With only three matches remaining in the 2015-2016 league calendar, everything is still up for grabs in the Investec Women’s Premier League.
University of Birmingham is now leading the table by only one point, with Surbiton and Canterbury hot on their heals. And Surbiton has a game in hand. The important fourth Championship pay-off place is still being hotly contested between East Grinstead and Holcombe, with Clifton in with an outside chance. At the bottom of the table it’s down but not quite out for Buckingham, with Bowdon Hightown and Reading looking likely relegation play-off candidates.
“Not A First Xl Match?”
We sometimes overhear interesting comments from spectators at matches, and on Saturday at Canterbury we heard a latecomer say, “Was that a First Xl match? It certainly did not look like it.”
Canterbury was playing Clifton and, although the bitingly cold wind took some of the edge of the game as a spectator spectacle, we think the comment was unfair. It is not difficult to see why Canterbury is comfortably in a Championship place. Watching the match, you saw the home side make very few unforced errors, or forced one’s for that matter. And they are tactically astute as well.
Looking through photographs of the match afterwards it was interesting to see how often we found Sarah Kerly in possession, making long penetrating runs. Skipper Grace Balsdon was dependable as ever, with Mel Clewlow adding her experience to the mix.
Clifton are no slouches and were never going to roll over easily. Hence the relatively modest score. Canterbury’s first goal was popped in very coolly after ten minutes by Alice Brown. The second was 14 minutes into the second half by Lauren Piper.
The match ended at 2-0 to Canterbury. Their remaining matches include bottom-placed Buckingham and fourth placed East Grinstead. Their season finale will be against the current leaders, University of Birmingham. We can see them creeping up into that top spot and remember, you read it here first.
Defeated Clifton move down one place to sixth, three points behind the inconsistent East Grinstead and Holcombe. Clifton’s last three matches are against Surbiton, Leicester and Holcombe. There are points there to be won, but we doubt it will be enough to move them back into a Championships play-off spot.
Shakespeare’s On’it for Reading
Predicting the outcome of matches is always a dangerous practice, but we would have thought ourselves safe with table-topping University of Birmingham versus relegation-threatened Reading. The University had lost one match all season, as opposed to eight for Reading.
The one goal of the match, a 45th minute field goal from Reading’s Sophie Shakespeare, creates an interesting situation at both ends of the table. It reduces the University’s lead to one point, whilst it makes Reading’s situation less precarious. They are in eighth place, four points ahead of Bowdon Hightown in ninth.
The University has a potentially difficult end to their season, with matches against East Grinstead, Holcombe and Canterbury. Reading play Leicester, Surbiton and Bowdon Hightown.
Surbiton Pose a Threat
The side that the students will be watching most carefully will be Surbiton, who remain the only undefeated side in the table, and have a game in hand.
They won their tenth match of the season on Saturday when they beat East Grinstead 0-2 away. The goals came from Rebecca Middleton (that’s Rebecca Herbert for those who are unused to her married name) and Olivia Chilton.
East Grinstead hang on to their fourth place, but only just. They are on 21 points, well adrift of the top three, on the same points as Holcombe. Only goal difference splits them. They have a tough game this weekend when they meet University of Birmingham, followed by an equally tough match against Canterbury. Their season finishes with a match against Buckingham, but EG will struggle to keep their fourth place.
In contrast, Surbiton is sitting pretty. They play their game-in-hand against Bowdon Hightown this Sunday, the day after they play Clifton. So they have a weekend worth six points. Their other matches are against Reading and Leicester.
The Curse of Scoring First
Buckingham’s only positive point from the weekend was that they were the only losing side to score at all. Lauren Thomas’s third minute penalty corner conversion gave them an early lead against Holcombe. But, as we have commented before, early goals are often a kiss of death, and so it proved for Buckingham, with penalty corner conversions from Leah Wilkinson and Steph Elliott, and a goal from Leigh Maarsorp.
The final score of 1-3 moves Holcombe back into contention for the Championship play-offs. They play Bowdon Hightown this Saturday, which might be good for three points, but they also have University of Birmingham and Clifton on their remaining fixture list.
Late Sally Give Hightown a Win
Leicester’s recent mini-revival, which has seen them win their last three matches, was derailed at Bowdon Hightown by late goals from Sally Walton and Lily Wolstenholme, which saw Hightown win 2-0.
Reading’s win against University of Birmingham means that the gap between Bowdon and Reading remains four points. Reading and Bowdon play each other in their last match of the league season, which has the potential to decide who is in the relegation play-offs. Leicester has Reading, Clifton and Holcombe to play, whilst Bowdon Hightown (with a game in hand) has Holcombe, Surbiton, Buckingham, as well as Reading. It’s a bit of a mixed grill for both sides, but Reading would appear to be safe, and Leicester even safer.
Alice Brown fires home Canterbury’s first goal against Clifton
SHOCK RESULTS FOR TOP CLUBS
The four leading clubs in the Men’s Premier Division came away from the weekend’s matches with a total of two points shared between them. At the bottom of the table there were also some surprises.
What was billed as the match of the weekend was the table-topping meet between second placed Surbiton and leader’s Holcombe, played under floodlights at Sugden Road. Saturday night provided the opportunity for Surbiton to restore a bit of faith in their campaign after losing their last three games and slipping from second to third.
After a goalless first half it was Sam Ward who found the net for Holcombe in the 42nd minute. Surbiton managed to rescue a draw when Dave Becket equalised 17 minutes later. George Pinner’s performance in the Holcombe goal has been described to us as one of the best goalkeeping performances ever, and it seems that it needed to be. Perhaps Surbiton has found its lost mojo, but with only nine points left on the table and three matches remaining, Holcombe are now out of reach.
FULL RESULTS AND TABLES CAN BE FOUND BY FOLLOWING THE LINKS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THIS PAGE
Second Match Lucky For Some
Two clubs saw League action on both Saturday and Sunday at the weekend. This was caused by the involvement of East Grinstead in European indoor competition a few weeks ago.
For Hampstead & Westminster, who were facing real relegation fears, it was a good weekend. They managed a goalless draw against East Grinstead on Saturday, followed by a very useful win on Sunday. (Just as an aside from the Saturday match, our man on the spot saw a player yellow carded for what appeared to be the late return of East Grinstead from the half-time break. An unusual decision?)
H&W’s Sunday scalp was no less than second placed Reading. Any early Simon Mantell goal was answered by a former Reading teammate, Iain Mackay, with James Simpson giving H&W the lead just before half-time from a penalty corner. Andrew Murie wrapped it up for Hampstead with a goal just before the final whistle to give his side a 3-1 win.
Unlike H&W, East Grinstead had less luck with their next match. Brooklands MU look like serious candidates for the fourth Championships play-offs place, but they’ve dropped five points from their last two matches and have slipped back into fifth place. Their home match against EG restores their hopes of that fourth place after a useful 3-1 win.
Peter Friend’s opening goal for Brooklands brought about an almost immediate reply from Robert Schilling, but goals from Aidan Khares and Graeme Wolfenden gave the home side the points.
So, where do these results leave the teams involved? Reading remain in second place, six points behind Holcombe, but only one point ahead of Surbiton. There is then a five point gap between Surbiton and the side in fourth place. Brooklands MU is now only only one point away from getting back into fourth.
Further down the table, Hampstead & Westminster’s four points moves them up from ninth to eighth, with East Grinstead now in seventh place.
More Canterbury Tales
History seems to be repeating itself down at Canterbury. After a rubbish season, just like 2014-2015, the Kent side seem to be playing a late get-out-of-gaol card. Last week their escape plans seem to have failed after they had gained seven points from their previous three games. Then they met Reading. Sunday was a little easier when they played away at Cannock.
Canterbury seem to have overcome the curse of scoring first, although Thomas Morris’s equaliser for Cannock after Craig Boyne had scored in the seventh minute might have suggested otherwise. But Canterbury built up a 1-3 lead by half time thanks to goals from Tom Butt and Josh Pollard. Ross Gilham-Jones increased the lead to 1-4 in the second half, with Peter Jackson finding the target for Cannock with a last minute penalty corner. Final score 2-4.
Canterbury remain in bottom place, four points below ninth-placed Cannock. But can they repeat last season’s escape where they managed to qualify for the relegation play-offs at the eleventh hour? Next week they are at Beeston, followed by Brooklands MU and Wimbledon. For Canterbury to move up they would be reliant on a series of poor results from Cannock. Cannock has Reading, Hampstead & Westminster and Surbiton. If we were the betting types, we’d keep our money in our wallets.
Late Bee Sting Beats Dons
We mentioned at the head of this piece that the four top clubs had only managed to win a total of two points over the weekend. Fourth placed Wimbledon was one of the four that made a zero contribution to the total.
We quite rate Wimbledon, but cannot understand why their results are so patchy. We had watched them play Beeston back in October, when Wimbledon’s 3-0 win had quite flattered Beeston. Perhaps the drive up the M1 is not to Wimbledon’s liking, but they lost the return match thanks to a late second half penalty corner from Richard Lawrence. The 1-0 result moves Beeston up into sixth place, their highest since early in the season.
With three matches left to play, Holcombe Championship place is assured, with Reading and Surbiton as good as home. The real battleground is for the fourth place, with Wimbledon clinging on by one point from Brooklands, and Beeston as a long-odds outsider five points behind. Wimbledon have arguably the easier fixture list, with H&W, East Grinstead and Canterbury left to play. Brooklands must face Holcombe, Canterbury and Reading.
George Pinner – Amazing against Surbiton, seen
here when the two sides met earlier in the season
FIELD GOALS TO COUNT DOUBLE AND A BIGGER CIRCLE?
We are used to pioneering experiments with the rules taking place in the Euro Hockey League, but an interesting experiment has been taking place in the Hockey India League.
The league has experimented with awarding two goals when a field goal is scored. But, according to an article by Nitan Sharma in The Indian Express, hockey could be looking at another major rule change. The article claims that the two-goals-per-field-goal idea has the approval of FIH President Leandro Negre. But the FIH are also looking at making the shooting circle bigger.
Negre is quoted in the article as saying, “One of the things which the FIH is studying is to increase the circle. Because, in this way, it is more difficult to defend and one gets more room for passes, more easy to shoot to goal and less important for short corner. An increase of even five metres in the present circle will make the game more scoring. Perhaps we can ask Hockey India to test this in HIL.”
We await the outcome with interest.
HARLESTON RELEGATED – STUDENTS AND CARDIFF IN PROMOTION PLAY OFFS
Unike the other divisions, the Men’s Conferences have played 16 matches, so we now know some of the winners and losers from the 2015-2016 season.
In the East there is still a three horse race involving Southgate, Richmond and Sevenoaks, with Southgate leading by a single point. Of that trio, only Sevenoaks was unsuccessful over the weekend, losing 5-1 at West Herts. At the bottom of the table Harleston are seven points adrift after losing 3-5 to Teddington, and are thus relegated. Bromley & Beckenham in ninth place look the most likely candidates for the relegation play offs. They lost 4-3 to Oxted on Sunday.
Loughborough Students recorded their 14th win of the season in the Conference North when they beat Olton & West Warwicks on Sunday. They are seven points ahead of Bowdon, and thus have reached the promotion play-offs. Things are undecided at the bottom end of the table. Lichfield has won ten points from their last five matches and, although they remain bottom, they are only one point behind Olton & West Warwicks, who are one point behind Wakefield.
In the West, Cardiff & Met lost on Sunday, but Bath Buccaneers could only draw. This means that the margin between the two is eight points, so Cardiff qualify for the Promotion Play-offs. At the bottom of the table it looks all over for Chichester Priory Park, but there are only four points between them and ninth place Guildford, so it’s not over yet. Likewise, Guildford look likely candidates for the relegation play-offs, but they are only four points behind Isca.
Investec Women’s Conferences Highlights
SLOUGH BEATEN BY H&W – WHITLEY BAY MOVE UP – STOURPORT SLIP UP
Although there are still three matches to play, we were expecting to anoint Conference East Slough as qualifiers for the promotion play-offs. Unfortunately for them they took a tumble at Hampstead & Westminster, losing 3-0. Although the remain a shoe-in for the top place, they have both Cambridge City and Wimbledon nine points behind them, so it has yet to be confirmed. At the bottom of the table, Ipswich are almost certainly for the drop. They are six points behind Maidenhead, and 13 points behind eighth placed Chelmsford, so either way it is automatic relegation or the relegation play-offs.
Things remain up for grabs in the North, where Wakefield lead the table by four points from Beeston. Both won their matches at the weekend, with Beeston pushing Brooklands into third place by beating them 0-1. Relegation issues are wide open, although Springfields are the likely candidates for automatic relegation. But above them are three sides separated by three points – Belper (15 pts), Whitley Bay & Tynemouth (12 pts) and Liverpool Sefton (12 pts). The positions of Whitley Bay and Sefton changed places over the weekend after the Tynesiders’ beat the Merseysiders’ 1-0.
In the Conference West it’s time to say goodbye to University of Bristol after one season in the Investec League. They lost 2-3 to neighbours Firebrands on Saturday and are now ten points below ninth placed Olton & West Warwicks. Also on 13 points, the same as Olton, is Trojans, with Firebrands one point ahead of them. So the relegation play-off spot is still very much in contention. At the top of the table, Stourport could only draw 2-2 at Olton, whilst leaders Sutton Coldfield won their match against Isca 2-3. Whilst Stouport’s challenge is clearly not over, it would have been a disappointing result for them. They are now three points behind Sutton, who have a far superior goal difference.
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