Wednesday, February 21, 2024

England Hockey Championship finals: Hampstead & Westminster’s day to savour

By The Hockey Paper | Lee Valley

What a history-making weekend for Hampstead & Westminster.

On Saturday, the club marked 125 years since coming into existence. On Sunday, the women won promotion to the top flight for the first time – galloping to the feat thanks to a 7-1 victory over Stourport – before the men beat Surbiton 3-1 in a thrilling Championship finale.

A Matt Guise-Brown penalty corner double put the north Londoners 2-0 up before Tom Sorsby’s goal eight minutes from time, after sustained Surbiton pressure, lit up a thrilling denouement.

But with Surbiton taking off Harry Gibson, Mark Pearn’s side were left short at the back and Sam French scored to seal the celebrations of a first title success.

Surbiton women did atone for the men’s disappointment after edging to their sixth successive title following a 1-0 victory over Holcombe.

Surbiton were indebted to Giselle Ansley for a first-half penalty stroke in a final short of entertainment but tightly fought between the two best sides in the league.

Victory by Brett Garrard’s side saw them secure a Euro Hockey League berth when women join the men for the first time next season.

Meanwhile, Hampstead & Westminster Ladies, co-coached by Kate Richardson-Walsh and Sarah Kelleher, marched towards the top flight as Stourport ran out of steam.

An Emily Maguire and Melanie Wilkinson double each left H&W celebrating, knowing that they had to win by five goals to be sure of their status.

Beaten once in the season, their ambitions to reach the Premier Division were only realised in the second-half of the final matches, with rivals Loughborough and Slough still in the mix. Their fitness proved too good against Stourport in a 7-1 win.

Loughborough’s superb win over Slough saw the Students also promoted, to go alongside their Conference North title, BUCS gold and midweek title success.

In the men’s promotion matches, Old Georgians put Havant to the sword by an 8-1 scoreline to win through to the top flight for the first time.

Old Georgians’ James Tindall said afterwards that the club now wants to challenge the likes of Surbiton as the leading club in the south, in terms of infrastructure.

The Hockey Paper will provide full coverage and reaction of the Championship finales in the next issue.

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