WITH three teams still harbouring hopes of clinching the final play-off spot, this weekend’s matches could prove decisive in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division.
Currently sixth in the table, Bowdon Hightown could scrape into the top four – but they need to beat both Surbiton this weekend and Reading the following weekend, and hope other results go their way with two other teams also in the running for the final play-off spot.
The Cheshire side are very capable of mixing it with the teams above them – they drew with leaders Canterbury and did the double over Leicester this season – and could play a big part in the European dreams of all the top clubs.
“Our objective this season has always been to make it to the top four,” said Bowdon Hightown manager Roger Hunt. “We’ve got two massive and difficult games coming up, but we will give it our best shot.
“We’ve had some really good results and played really well at times this season, but also had some bad results, so we’re hoping we can get some good form now.
“This season has been a mix of experienced players like Tina Cullen and Michelle Liptrot, but also some great youngsters like Amy Tennant, and we’ve had three girls in the England Under-18s set-up.
“We’re already planning for next season and aiming to build on this with a few signings, but also giving some second team players the chance to step up as they’ve shown they deserve that chance.”
Meanwhile, Reading will be aiming to go top of the table and secure the automatic place in Europe when they go to Leicester, while Canterbury host relegated Olton and West Warwickshire and will want to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Surbiton.
Clifton travel to Sutton Coldfield, with both sides battling. Clifton are aiming for a win to keep hold of the final play-off spot, while Sutton Coldfield are fighting for their lives to avoid the threat of relegation.
Finally, Beeston play host to University of Birmingham, who need a point to ensure Premier Division survival.
Already assured of a place in the promotion play-offs, Holcombe will be aiming to keep their great form going when they host Old Loughtonians in the Investec Conference East.
However it is still a three-way battle for top spot in the Investec Conference North. Current leaders Brooklands Poynton host Loughborough Students, while second-placed Wakefield entertain third-placed university of Durham.
And in the Investec Conference West, leaders Buckingham could clinch their place in the promotion play-offs if they win at Isca on Saturday.
League Finals Weekend
The winners of the Investec Women’s Hockey League and the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League will be crowned over two action-packed weekends at Reading Hockey Club in April. The top four Premier Division teams qualify for their respective finals weekends, playing off against each other to be crowned league champions.
The men’s finals will take place on the 5-6 April while the women will battle it out a week later from 12-13 April. Tickets are now available to purchase for both weekends, please visit www.englandhockey.co.uk/tickets
Investec Women’s Hockey League (Saturday, March 15 2014)
Investec Premier Division
Beeston v University of Birmingham 12:00
Bowdon Hightown v Surbiton 13:45
Canterbury v Olton and West Warwickshire 17:00
Leicester v Reading 14:00
Sutton Coldfield v Cliffton14:00
Investec Conference East
East Grinstead v Horsham 13:30
Holcombe v Old Loughtonians 16:00
Ipswich v Harleston Magpies 14:00
Sevenoaks v Chelmsford 13:30
Wimbledon v St Albans 14:00
Investec Conference North
Boots v Ben Rhydding 12:30
Brooklands Poynton v Loughborough Students 12:00
Doncaster v Kendal 12:00
Stourport v Whitley Bay and Tynemouth 12:00
Wakefield v University of Durham 13:30
Investec Conference West
Barnes v Oxford Hawks 12:00
Bristol Firebrands v Trojans 11:30
Gloucester City v Swansea City 12:00
Isca v Buckingham 12:30
Slough v Exe
photos Janos Schmidt