NOW: Pensions Play-Off battle starts on Sunday

131201 surbiton sheffield 22 - Martin Sutherland 450

Sunday 30 March at Cannock HC marks the beginning of the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League Play-Offs, where the top teams from the three conferences and the ninth-place team from the Premier Division face off against each other, vying either for Premier Division glory or to avoid relegation.

In the NOW: Pensions Play-Off Tournament the three winning NOW: Pensions Conference sides join the team finishing in ninth place in the NOW: Pensions Premier Division for a four team round robin tournament, with the top two teams claiming NOW: Pensions Premier Division places for the next season.

While the majority of the games will be played over the League Finals weekend, to fit them all in some of the games will be played this Sunday at Cannock. Here you'll find all the competitiors for this season, and below the match schedule for this Sunday: 

NOW: Pensions Conference East champions – Southgate
From Conference East the team to beat is Southgate, who were in the running alongside fellow high-flyers Holcombe but managed to pip them at the post to take the coveted top spot. The North London side boast both the highest number of goals scored in the Conference and the least conceded. One player to keep an eye out for is goalkeeper Chris Hibbert, who’s been staunchly defending Southgate’s goal for ten years, now in his final season for the North London side and hoping to see his team promoted back into the top flight after only one season away.

NOW: Pensions Conference North champions – Brooklands MU
Conference North has seen Brooklands MU top the table in style, three points ahead of their closest competitors and six points ahead two weeks before the league ended, guaranteeing their place in the play-offs and just waiting to see who they’d be up against. They’re no strangers to Finals Weekend, having been in them four times since 2007 and Conference North top scorer Peter Flanagan will be hoping he can fire home in a few more penalty corners for his side in the deciding fixtures.

NOW: Pensions Conference West champions – Cardiff & Met
Cardiff & Met will be the Conference West representative for a second consecutive year as they get another chance to vie for Premier Division status. Their presence was decided in the final weekend through a close win at Havant – if they’d drawn or lost they could have been overtaken by Team Bath Buccaneers, who have been two points down and nipping at Cardiff & Met’s heels for weeks. The Welsh side will no doubt approach the Finals Weekend with the same style of play which earned them the Conference title; this approach takes the form of a very solid defence having conceded just 16 goals across the whole season, and none since the league restarted in February; a number which cannot be matched by any other side across the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League.

NOW: Pensions Premier Division ninth place – Sheffield Hallam
The final contender in this year’s play-offs is Sheffield Hallam, who will be fighting to keep their place in the top flight, as the Yorkshire side finished ninth in the Premier Division. They’ve been trailing for much of the season, but a final weekend switch with Loughborough Students handed them a lifeline and a chance to remain in the division as they narrowly avoided finishing tenth and being automatically relegated. As they were only promoted last season, they’ll be going into the play-offs to prove that they still belong in the Premier Division above the Conference challengers.

We can’t say who we think will win in the Play-Offs, but that shouldn’t stop you from making your voices heard. Take to Twitter and Facebook to voice your opinion, or take yourselves down to the League Finals Weekend where the final matches will be played and you can cheer your teams in person!

Sunday 30 March at Cannock HC

1230 - NPMHL Play-Offs Match 1
Brooklands MU (North) v Sheffield Hallam (Premier)

1430 - NPMHL Play-Offs Match 2
Southgate (East) v Cardiff & Met (West)