Canterbury chase Europe dreams

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LEADERS Canterbury take on play-off rivals Clifton in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division on Saturday, with dreams of European hockey dependent on the result.

The team who are top of the table at the end of the 18-match season automatically qualify for Europe next season, and if Canterbury qualify it will be their first time since 2007.

“Europe isn’t something that we’ve been discussing a lot as a team,” said Canterbury player/coach Jen Wilson. “Everybody else is talking about it around the club like the fans and the media, but the players have been very professional and focusing on each week.

“And that’s what we will do this week against Clifton. We are excited to have them as opponents this week and our only focus at the moment is on a strong performance.”

Meanwhile, Reading host Bowdon and Hightown, and could snatch first place if Canterbury drop points.

Elsewhere, third-placed Surbiton will want to keep their good form going with a double-header weekend which sees them face Beeston at home in the league on Saturday, before travelling to Buckingham in the Investec Cup semi final on Sunday.

Sutton Coldfield travel to University of Birmingham in their last Premier Division match of the season, and will want to get a win under their belts before focusing on the play-offs, where they face the winners of the three Investec Conferences in a bid to preserve their top-flight status.

For their part, University of Birmingham also have a double header with a clash on Sunday at Hampstead and Westminster in the Investec Cup semi finals.

Finally, Leicester travel to relegated Olton and West Warwickshire in the day’s other Premier Division match.

The title is still up for grabs in the Investec Conference North, with leaders Brooklands Poynton travelling to Kendal as they bid to sew up their place in the promotion play-offs.

But Wakefield – who go to Whitley Bay and Tynemouth – could go top if they win and Brooklands lose.

Runaway Investec Conference East leaders Holcombe go to St Albans in their final match of the regular season, while Investec Conference West winners Buckingham entertain Gloucester City.

League Finals Weekend

The winners of the Investec Women’s Hockey League and the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League will be crowned over two action-packed weekends at Reading Hockey Club in April. The top four Premier Division teams qualify for their respective finals weekends, playing off against each other to be crowned league champions.

The men’s finals will take place on the 5-6 April while the women will battle it out a week later from 12-13 April. Tickets are now available to purchase for both weekends, please visit www.englandhockey.co.uk/tickets

The three Conference winners plus ninth place in Premier also play off at Reading, preceded by matches at Cannock on 30 March, with the top two gaining places in the Premier in 2014-15.

Investec Women’s Hockey League (Saturday, March 22 2014)

Investec Premier Division
Clifton v Canterbury 14:00
Olton and West Warwickshire v Leicester 14:00
Reading v Bowdon Hightown 14:00
Surbiton v Beeston 14:00
University of Birmingham v Sutton Coldfield 14:00

Investec Conference East
Chelmsford v Wimbledon 14:00
Harleston Magpies v East Grinstead 14:00
Horsham v Sevenoaks 14:00
Old Loughtonians v Ipswich 14:00
St Albans v Holcombe 14:00

Investec Conference North
Ben Rhydding v Doncaster 14:00
Kendal v Brooklands Poynton 14:00
Loughborough University v Boots 14:00
University of Durham v Stourport 14:00
Whitley Bay and Tynemouth v Wakefield 14:00

Investec Conference West
Buckingham v Gloucester City 14:00
Exe v Barnes 14:00
Oxford Hawks v Bristol Firebrands 14:00
Swansea City v Slough 14:00
Trojans v Isca 14:00

Investec Women’s Cup, semi finals (Sunday, March 23 2014)

Buckingham v Surbiton
Hampstead & Westminster v Univ of Birmingham