Friday, June 14, 2024

Top to bottom: Wimbledon, Surbiton; Durham and Exeter set for nervy weekend

And so it comes down to the final weekend, with plenty at stake at both ends of the Men’s Premier Division. At the top, should Wimbledon – who along with rivals Surbiton have endured a season of injuries and missing players – beat Old Georgians away this weekend then the Londoners will join the league champions in Europe next season as the second-placed team.

“We have to win and it’s simple as that, the same as any other weekend,” said Wimbledon coach Karl Stagno, at the helm for Old Georgians’ only defeat this season. “We will assume that Surbiton wins, which means we have to win our game.

“It’s so difficult to predict [how it will play out] – will Old Georgians be fit, not in form, will they be celebrating the title? With a team like Old Georgians, with the team they have, they could be twice as dangerous on Saturday and could play with no fear. They have a great side but so do we.”

Meanwhile, Surbiton had a lighter load this week, switching training from Tuesday to Thursday to allow for recovery time after the EHL. If Wimbledon draw and Surbiton win then it will come down to goal difference, with the latter holding the advantage.

“To finally get to the medal stage, show your real worth and put English hockey back on the map, where they richly deserve to be, was great,” Surbiton manager Matt Jones said of their EHL.

“We just have to hope that OGs play with the ruthlessness that they have all season. I’m sure they will want to go out with a bang, as do we, and to carry on our European form when we go to London.”

Surbiton needs results and goals to fall their way Pic: Debbie Christopher

Meanwhile, University of Exeter and Durham University will battle it out, with one side set for the drop following the relegation changes inflicted upon the Bottom 5. 

Exeter hold a one-point advantage over their university rivals heading into the final fixtures of the season.

“It has been a case of trying to pick up as many points as possible in the last three games and keep on improving,” Gareth Weaver-Tyler, Durham’s coach and head of hockey, said on the competition change which left relegation going down the final stretch.

“We got off to a great start beating Beeston 1-0 and were unlucky not to get anything against Brooklands (1-2) and we have to believe now that we can put in a really good performance against Oxted. We have to focus on this game.” 

The match will take on extra prominence, with Mark Galloway playing his last ever game before retirement with Oxted. Galloway, Oxted’s captain, was Weaver-Tyler’s first captain when he became Durham coach eight years ago.

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