Sunday, July 21, 2024

England Hockey previews: Brooklands MU and Buckingham face crucial weekends

Brooklands Manchester University’s top six hopes rest on a crucial double header on the penultimate weekend before the winter break in the Men’s Premier Division.

Brooklands MU, with a game in hand on their rivals, host Hampstead & Westminster and Old Georgians on Saturday and Sunday respectively, two sides who have already qualified for the the top six split league after Christmas.

Brooklands will be searching for their first win in five games. And if the current leading university side can secure victory in one of these two tussles, it could take the final placings down to the last weekend.

Holcombe and Oxted, in fifth and sixth respectively, are still not assured of a top league berth. The two sides meet on Sunday, with much riding on the encounter while Holcombe can qualify with a win.

Durham University can also still make the top six. They play second from bottom East Grinstead on Sunday and University of Exeter, who prop up the Premier Division table, on the final weekend.

Meanwhile, there will be a London derby to savour when leaders Wimbledon travel to Surbiton on Saturday evening.

Wimbledon took over from Surbiton at the top last weekend when Mark Pearn’s suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of Hampstead & Westminster.

Surbiton’s forward and corner threats will look to exact revenge on their rivals and will return to the summit with a home win at Sugden Road.

Beeston are still not out of the top six equation but need to win their last two matches, starting with a home clash with Exeter on Sunday afternoon.

Who will reach the top six before mid-season split? PIC: Debbie Christopher

There is still all to play for in the Vitality Women’s Premier Division ahead of the penultimate weekend before the mid-season league placings are realised.

Victory for Beeston over Swansea will assure James Sordillo’s side of a place in the top six. Beeston are currently in sixth but any slip up against the Welsh side will leave three clubs behind them still in with a chance heading into the final weekend.

Buckingham have the best chance given their goal difference over University of Birmingham and Loughborough Students, the trio of clubs locked on six points.

Whether hosts Buckingham can stop East Grinstead’s superb form is another matter. The West Sussex side last failed to score in the top flight 26 months ago and have won their last five matches.

The Students host fellow rivals University of Birmingham on Saturday in a crunch encounter where both sides need a win or face a drop into the bottom five league in February.

Meanwhile Clifton need a point to claim a berth in the top six. They host Wimbledon on Saturday with the Bristol side able to celebrate their recent milestone of 500 Premier Division matches in front of local support.

Holcombe, second from bottom, will hope results fall their way as they are mathematically not out of the race for a top six place. The Kent side face a stern test at home in the form of Surbiton.

On Sunday, East Grinstead face Surbiton, forming a double header weekend for both clubs. If they can finish with six points, East Grinstead, unbeaten at home in 14 matches, will head into the final weekend only three points behind leaders Hampstead & Westminster, who have a bye weekend.

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