East Grinstead have sewn up first place in the England Hockey League premier division with one match still to play. The defending champions won 6-3 at Cannock on Saturday to seal first place in the division and an automatic Euro Hockey League place for next season.
Meanwhile results at the other end of the table have set up a grand relegation finale between Canterbury and Brooklands MU.
Grinstead sealed first place with goals from Mark Pearn, Niall Stott, Dominick Male, Mats Grambusch and Glenn Kirkham (all open play). The Cannock scorers were Robert Smih, Matthew Plunket and Ross Hayward (stroke).
Reading guaranteed themselves fourth place with a 2-1 home win over Beeston. The win means Reading will enter the playoffs full of confidence having beaten both the top two sides in the dying weeks of the regualr season.
Beeston look certain of second place despite the loss. They travel to third-placed Surbiton on March 27. If the Surrey club win they will be level on points with the Bees, but a nine-goal superiority in goal difference should keep the Nottingham side safely in second.
Surbiton guaranteed themselves at least third place with a 6-2 home win over Hampstead and Westminster. Bowdon made a late run for the playoffs with a 4-0 win in the Manchester derby against Brooklands MU. While Loughborough Students’ surprise home loss 3-2 to Canterbury, along with other results, has opened up the battle for the fifth playoff qualifying spot.
Any one of Loughborough Students (23pts), Bowdon (23pts) or Hampstead and Westminster (21pts) could still make it into Europe next year. Beeston reached the championship final from fifth spot last season – so it can be done.
Hampstead and Westminster face eighth-placed Cannock, Bowdon have a home game against Reading and Loughborough Students face a trip to East Grinstead – all on March 27.
At the other end of the table, the Brooklands MU Canterbury match will decide who gets relegated and who lives to fight on iin the relegation playoffs.
The final-round games are:
Hampstead and Westminster vs Cannock
Canterbury vs Brooklands
Surbiton vs Beeston
East Grinstead vs Loughborough Students
Bowdon vs Reading
For full league tables and results: