A weekend of playoff action has set up a rematch of last year’s Beeston East Grinstead men’s final while Leicester will play Reading in the women’s final.[img_assist|nid=1651|title=|desc=Chloe Rogers (Leicester, left) gets strong against Bowdon Hightown’s Kayleigh Humphreys in Sunday’s semi-final (c) Andy Smith|link=popup|align=left|width=250|height=354]
For the first time there will also be a third vs fourth men’s playoff to decide the final Euro Hockey League place. Reading will play Surbiton in that one as part of a grand final day at Cannock on Saturday April 9. The men’s and women’s finalists have also qualified for Europe next season.
Saturday’s fourth vs fifth games saw Reading men turn over Bowdon 2-1. Reading taking a 2-0 lead through a Richard Mantell PC (25 mins) and an Ian Mackay field goal (45). David Egerton hit back for Bowdon in the 56th minute (FG).
In the women’s four vs five game. A 69th minute winner from Tina Cullen for Bowdon Hightown finished off the defending champions Slough 2-1. Cullen scored the north-westerners’ other goal too – a 39th minute corner finish. Lauern Penny had put Slough ahead in the 16th minute (FG).
Sunday’s crunch men’s semis were tight affairs with the higher-ranked home teams winning in both cases. Beeston defeated Surbiton 2-1 despite going behind to an early Mat Daly goal (PC, 18). Adam Dixon (PC, 39) and Andrew Monte (PS, 56) did the damage for the Bees.
In the other match Reading fought back from 2-0 down at defending champions East Grinstead only to fall to a 62nd minute winner from Danny Hall (FG). Reading’s goals came from Richard Springham (54, FG) and Jonty Clarke (56, PS). EG’s 2-0 lead came from two Mark Peran PCs (20 & 47).
In the women’s semis, Leicester ran away to a 5-1 win over Bowdon Hightown after a tight start. Hannah Macleod scored first for Leicester (FG, 6), Fay Nash levelled in the 13th minute. Goals from Crista Cullen (PC, 32) Kerry Williams (FG, 38), Macleod again (FG, 41) and Anne Panter (PC, 53) took Leicester to the final.
Meanwhile at Reading did a smash and grab at Polo farm to turn over hosts Canterbury by a single goal from Alex Danson in the 40th minute (FG).