Hampstead’s Lily Owsley beat her stick in frustration on the Sugden Road astro as the final whistle went. Yet, here was a moment which suggested that the domestic women’s game has a rivalry to savour in the coming seasons.
Champions for the last six seasons, Surbiton extended their lead at the top of the Investec Premier Division with a 3-1 win over top flight newcomers Hampstead & Westminster on Saturday.
It has, however, taken a decade for these two quality sides to meet, with Surbiton last playing Hampstead at home in a league fixture in 2009 – the South Clubs League Division One no less. For now, the question is who can stop Surbiton in the regular season after nine straight wins and an eight-point gap opening up ahead of Hampstead.
“That’s probably the best game of hockey in the league for a couple of years,” said Brett Garrard, Surbiton’s coach. “It was a tough game of hockey, Hampstead are equipping themselves really well in the league and will only get better.”
Several Surbiton players stood out, but Erica Sanders stole the show with a brace. Opening the scoring in the ninth minute, her second came in a crucial second-half period as she found the ball on the baseline, rounded Rochelle Gianfrancesco and calmly slotted home at the second attempt after menacing circle work from Darcy Bourne.
In between, Giselle Ansley scored from a penalty corner, but the goal had been made in the build up when Hollie Payne produced an outstanding pass to pick out an on-running Hannah Martin, who then won the corner. Her form continues to be of the highest level for club and country.
Hampstead were still a threat at 3-0 down and Owsley netted a minute later to keep up their record of scoring in every game thus far in their debut season. But the damage had already been done.
“We let them back in it in the second half but we stuck at it,” added Garrard. “It’s amazing what fatigue and extra pressure does for you, but it was good for us to experience that. We haven’t had a game like that all year and we will be better for it.”
Where the game was won
“I enjoy these games more when it’s more of a fight.” So said captain Georgie Twigg, who again impressed for the champions. As did Sanders, while the press of Eloise Stenner in attack left Hampstead working out ways to free the ball out from defence to their fast counter-attacking threats, with the likes of Owsley and Sarah Robertson at the helm. Surbiton had better movement off the ball while a disciplined defence, in front of returning goalkeeper Sabbie Heesh, also kept its shape as Hampstead accrued eight penalty corner chances to no avail. Overall, this was a fine Surbiton team performance ahead of their trip to Bowdon on Saturday.
East Grinstead were seemingly caught off guard in this team image taken on the day they entered the play-offs courtesy of a fine 4-1 win over Buckingham on Saturday. However, it’s the first time they’ve looked out of kilter in several weeks, during a resurgent run from the foot of the table to third place, unbeaten in seven games now following a 1-1 draw against Bowdon on Sunday. Further, Sophie Bray form continues and she is now the league’s leading scorer, with nine. The former GB international notched three more goals over the weekend from their two games.
Floods hinder Belper’s season
Swansea women’s bid to strengthen their grip at the top of Investec Division One was curtailed by an away postponement as Belper, bottom of the table, continue to feel the effects after recent flooding. The River Derwent burst its banks last week, which left Derbyshire-based Belper’s pitches under water and the club seeking to raise upwards of £8,000 to cover industrial clean-up costs and repairs. Belper has helped nurture the likes of Great Britain captain Hollie Pearne-Webb.
Investec Women’s Premier Division results
Buckingham 1 East Grinstead 4
Clifton Robinsons 3 Loughborough Students 2
Holcombe 1 Bowdon 2
Beeston 3 University of Birmingham 1
Surbiton 3 Hampstead & Westminster 1
What’s on this weekend
November 23: University of Birmingham v Clifton, 1: 15pm Bowdon v Surbiton, 1: 45pm Loughborough Students v Buckingham, 2pm East Grinstead v Beeston, 4: 30pm
November 24: Hampstead & Westminster v Holcombe, 12pm