[img_assist|nid=1422|title=Crista Cullen|desc=On target again for league-winners Leicester|link=popup|align=left|width=300|height=212]Leicester have taken the women’s England Hockey League premier division title with one game to spare thanks to an emphatic 7-0 win at University of Birmingham on Sunday.
Crista Cullen (2 PC), Lucy Brown (FG), Rebecca Herbert (2 FG), Hannah Macleod (FG) and Lauren Turner (FG) were the goalscorers. The top spot guarantees European qualification, regardless of championship playoff results.
The other big scorers of the round were Canterbury who smashed in eight against visitors Olton & West Warwicks. In the two local derbies, Reading took the points at Slough 2-1 and Bowdon Hightown the points at already relegated Brooklands Poynton 3-1.
Canterbury’s win seals second place for the Kent side while Reading (3rd, 33pts), Bowdon Hightown (4th, 32 pts) and Slough (5th, 29 pts) are all guaranteed playoff places, with sixth-placed University of Birmingham trailing Slough by an unbridgeable four points.
[img_assist|nid=1499|title=|desc=Slough’s Ashleigh Ball tackles Reading’s Helen Richardson|link=popup|align=right|width=250|height=165]Reading’s home game against Bowdon Hightown now becomes the key game of the final round. The winner will finish third and face a championship playoff semi-final against Canterbury. The loser (or Bowdon if the game is drawn) will face Slough in the first playoff round then a tricky semi-final against first-placed Leicester.
At the bottom end of the table, ninth-placed Cannock (12pts, -22 GD) could still avoid a relegation playoff if they beat visitors University of Birmingham and if eighth-placed Olton and West Warwicks (15pts, -30 GD) fail to score a point at home against Clifton.
Next Saturday’s other games sees Canterbury take the long trip north to Brooklands Poynton, and Slough travel to Leicester. A win to Slough and a loss for Bowdon Hightown would see Slough leapfrog into fourth and gain home advantage for their playoff.