Crucial clashes in NOW: Pensions Premier Division

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TEAMS are preparing for crucial clashes at both ends of the table in the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League Premier Division, with two sides fighting for automatic European qualification at the top, while at the bottom three clubs are aiming to avoid relegation.

Leaders East Grinstead and second-placed Beeston – level on points and separated only by scoring difference – both harbour hopes of clinching their place in Europe for next season by finishing top of the table.

East Grinstead travel to fellow semi finalists Surbiton on Sunday, while Beeston host Cannock at the same time.

“It’s going to be one hell of a game, because Cannock are fighting for their lives,” said Beeston manager Graham Griffiths. “But we don’t expect to lose at home, and will be fighting hard.

“We’ve had several players out since Christmas and that continues to give us problems with GB keeper George Pinner missing, and David Ames, Harry Martin and Gordon McIntyre all out too as well as several others. But we have a great team spirit here and will continue to fight all the way.”

Elsewhere, bottom of the table Sheffield Hallam go to Wimbledon as they aim to pull themselves up and avoid automatic relegation, while second bottom Loughborough Students face a tough match at third-placed Reading.

If Loughborough win, they could secure Premier Division safety as Cannock may be pulled into the play-offs if they lose at Beeston.

In other Premier Division action, Canterbury host Hampstead and Westminster.

In two of the NOW: Pensions Conferences, the title is still up for grabs and an exciting finish to the season is beckoning.

In the NOW: Pensions Conference West, leaders Cardiff and Met need to beat Havant to be sure of the title. A draw may be enough as they have a two point lead and superior goal difference over second placed Team Bath Buccaneers who host Guildford..

And in the NOW: Pensions Conference East, Southgate only need a point from their match at Bromley and Beckenham. Second-placed Holcombe go to Richmond, knowing that if Southgate lose, a win would be enough to put them top and into the promotion play-offs.

Title winners Brooklands Manchester University go to West Bridgford in the NOW: Pensions Conference North on Sunday. They will be aiming to continue the great form which has seen them go 19 consecutive games unbeaten in outdoor competition.

League Finals Weekend

The winners of the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League and the Investec Women’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 Division in 2014-15.

NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League (Sunday, March 23 2014)

NOW: Pensions Premier Division
Beeston v Cannock 14:00
Canterbury v Hampstead and Westminster 14:00
Reading v Loughborough Students 14:00
Surbiton v East Grinstead 14:00
Wimbledon v Sheffield Hallam 14:00

NOW: Pensions Conference East
Bromley and Beckenham v Southgate 14:00
Old Loughtonians v Teddington 14:00
Oxted v Brighton and Hove 14:00
Richmond v Holcombe 14:00
St Albans v Cambridge 14:00

NOW: Pensions Conference North
Belper v Khalsa 14:00
Bowdon v University of Durham 14:00
Deeside Ramblers v Olton and west Warwickshire 14:00
Leek v Wakefield 14:00
West Bridgford v Brooklands Manchester University 14:00

NOW: Pensions Conference West
Havant v Cardiff and Met 14:00
Indian Gymkhana v Cheltenham 14:00
Isca v Fareham 14:00
Team Bath Buccaneers v Guildford 14:00
University of Birmingham v University of Exeter 14:00