Five teams still in hunt for play-off places

[img_assist|nid=6598|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=87|height=100]ENGLAND, March 22 – The Men’s Hockey League Premier Division reaches a thrilling stage this weekend, with five teams chasing the remaining three spots in the end of season play-off Championship.

At the other end of the table, Southgate and Brooklands Manchester University are both still fighting to avoid relegation. And to add to the excitement this weekend, all three Conference titles will also be decided.

Cannock’s defeat by East Grinstead last weekend saw them drop to sixth in the Premier Division, but they are still in the race for the play-offs. They entertain third-placed Canterbury on Sunday and could overtake them if they win by at least four goals.

East Grinstead go to ninth-placed Southgate on Sunday and will be hopeful of a victory which could see them claw their way back into the top four. But a win for Southgate would see them avoid automatic relegation.

Reading currently occupy fourth spot, but face perhaps the toughest match at home to runaway leaders Beeston.

Meanwhile, second-placed Surbiton play bottom of the table Brooklands Manchester University. Surbtion’s goal difference means they are all but assured a top four spot but Brooklands  need a win and hope Southgate fail to do so to avoid automatic relegation.

While things are tight in the Premier Division, it is even closer in the Conference East with Holcombe and Wimbledon locked in a battle for a place in the promotion play-offs.

The two sides are level on league points and points difference with Holcombe holding the advantage on goals scored. But their goals for and against are also just two goals apart, meaning that if Holcombe beat Old Loughtonians 2-0 and Wimbledon beat Cambridge City 4-2, the title will be decided on the aggregate score in the matches between the two sides during the season.

In that case Wimbledon will go top of the table, having beaten and drawn with Holcombe

However the title is decided, it is believed to be the tightest finish to a league on record, according to England Hockey competitions manager Stephen Barlow.

In the Men’s Conference North, Sheffield Hallam’s fate is in their own hands. Currently second, they have a double header weekend and face Preston on Saturday and University of Durham on Sunday. If they win both matches they will overtake current leaders Bowdon, who go to Belper.

And in the Men’s Conference West the top two teams Cardiff & UWIC and University of Exeter face each other in a winner-takes-all match in Devon.

Men’s Hockey League (Saturday, March 23 2013)

Conference North

Sheffield Hallam v Preston 13:30

Men’s Hockey League (Sunday, March 24 2013)

Premier Division

Brooklands MU v Surbiton 14:00

Cannock v Canterbury 14:00

Hampstead & Westminster v Loughborough Students 14:00

Reading v Beeston 14:00

Southgate v East Grinstead 14:00

Conference East

Old Loughtonians v Holcombe 14:00

Oxted v Bromley & Beckenham 14:00

Richmond v City of Peterborough 14:00

Teddington v Indian Gymkhana 14:00

Wimbledon v Cambridge City 14:00

Conference North

Belper v Bowdon 14:00

Khalsa (Warks) v Olton & West Warwicks 14:00

Leek v Preston 14:00

Sheffield Hallam v Univ of Durham 14:00

Wakefield v Doncaster 14:00

Conference West

Bristol Firebrands v Cheltenham 14:00

Fareham v Team Bath Buccaneers 14:00

Guildford v Univ of Birmingham 14:00

Univ of Exeter v Cardiff & UWIC 14:00

Whitchurch v Havant 14:00