Race for the play-offs continues in earnest

[img_assist|nid=6260|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=68|height=100]LONDON, February 15 – A full-strength Surbiton side are preparing to take on Canterbury in the England men’s hockey league on Sunday as the race for a place in the end of season play-offs continues to gather pace.

With most teams still in the hunt for a top four place in what looks set to be the closest finish to the Men’s Premier Division for several seasons, every match could prove crucial.

Surbiton manager James Lloyd said his team were relishing the prospect of each and every game from now to the end of the season: “There’s no such thing as an easy game now. Everybody is fighting for their lives to make it to the top four.

“We take each game as it comes. We’ve been training hard and playing well, and the second half of the season started well for us with a good win.

“We played Canterbury at our place earlier in the season and it was a very tight game, so we’re looking forward to the rematch.”

Elsewhere, Loughborough Students could overtake Canterbury into second spot if they beat fourth-placed Cannock, while Reading travel to bottom of the table Southgate in search of a win which could lift them into a top four spot.

Hampstead and Westminster face a double-header weekend with home games against Southgate on Saturday and Brooklands Manchester University on Sunday.

Beeston and East Grinstead have a weekend off domestic hockey with the latter side in European action in Vienna at the EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy.

The top two meet in the Conference East, with second-placed Wimbledon playing host to leaders Holcombe in a crucial match to the promotion ambitions of both sides.

Conference North leaders Bowdon travel to Preston on Sunday, while Sheffield Hallam – who are just two points behind – host South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster.

And in the Conference West any one of four teams could be top of the table after this Sunday’s matches, with just two points separating first to fourth.

Leaders Guildford go to Fareham on Sunday, third-placed University of Exeter travel to Cheltenham, and fourth-placed Team Bath Buccaneers go to Bristol Firebrands.

Tickets for the end of season playoffs on April 13-14 are on sale now. Find out more and book viawww.englandhockey.co.uk/mensfinals.

Men’s Hockey League (Saturday, February 16 2013)

Premier Division

Hampstead and Westminster v Southgate 14:00

Conference East

Wimbledon v Holcombe 17:00

Men’s Hockey League (Sunday, February 17 2013)

Premier Division

Canterbury v Surbiton 12:45

Hampstead and Westminster v Brooklands MU 14:00

Southgate v Reading 14:00

Cannock v Loughborough Students 14:30

Conference East

Cambridge City v Indian Gymkhana 12:30

Oxted v Richmond 12:45

Bromley and Beckenham v City of Peterborough 13:00

Old Loughtonians v Teddington 14:00

Conference North

Sheffield Hallam v Doncaster 13:30

Univ of Durham v Khalsa (Warks) 13:30

Belper v Olton and West Warwicks 14:00

Preston v Bowdon 14:00

Wakefield v Leek 14:00

Conference West

Cheltenham v Univ of Exeter 13:00

Fareham v Guildford 13:30

Bristol Firebrands v Team Bath Buccaneers 14:00

Havant v Univ of Birmingham 14:00