Play-off hopes go down to the wire

Olivia Chilton and Lily Owsley celebrate Univ of Birmingham's goal, Sept 13 2014 - credit Andy Smith - 450


THERE is still much to play for as the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division heads into the thrilling final week of regular season matches on Saturday.

Surbiton host Holcombe, with the leaders aiming to finish the season unbeaten while Holcombe will want to clinch the fourth and final play-off spot. But there are crucial matches elsewhere which could also impact on both ends of the table.

The University of Birmingham are at home against Buckingham. The students are sixth and could still scrape into the play-offs depending on other results. Meanwhile, Buckingham are fighting for their lives at the other end of the table.

“We’ve played Buckingham many times in the league, cup and friendly matches, and they’re always close games,” said University of Birmingham coach Phil Gooderham. “They will be fighting tooth and nail to win it, as will we.

“We’re relying on two other results to go our way to get to the play-offs, so in a sense we have nothing to lose. All we can do is win and hope, but nerves will come into it as both Holcombe and Reading have tough games.

“But whatever the outcome, the girls have done really well this year and I’m chuffed to bits with them.”

A win for Buckingham could see them climb out of the relegation play-off place but that would rely on Bowdon Hightown failing to win at already relegated Beeston.

Second-placed Canterbury have a home game against third-placed Clifton in a rehearsal of the Finals Weekend, which this year is being held at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London from April 18-19.

Reading are another team who could make it into the play-offs, and they play Leicester knowing that if they win Holcombe will need to have beaten Surbiton to deny them fourth place.

All three Conference titles have been settled with East Grinstead (East), Wakefield (North) and Slough (West) in the play-offs which start at Cannock a week on Sunday then culminate alongside the league finals at Lee Valley on April 18-19.

However, there are still relegation and play-off issues to be decided in all three Divisions.

In the Investec Conference East, bottom of the table Horsham hope to leap-frog Bedford and avoid automatically going down.

Horsham are at home against Chelmsford, while Bedford entertain Maidenhead.

In the Investec Conference West, Bristol Firebrands head to champions Slough as they bid to avoid the relegation play-offs. They must win – and hope that rivals Oxford Hawks lose at home against relegated Cheltenham.

Cannock go to Loughborough Students in search of a win as they aim to move off the bottom in the Investec Conference North. Just above them, Liverpool Sefton are also on the road, at league runners-up Brooklands Poynton, as they bid to avoid automatic relegation.

* The above file photo shows the University of Birmingham celebrating a goal during the 2014-15 season. Credit: Andy Smith.

Investec Women’s Hockey League Fixtures (Mar 21 2015):

Investec Premier Division
Canterbury v Clifton 14:00
Reading v Leicester 14:00
Univ of Birmingham v Buckingham 14:00
Surbiton v Holcombe 14:00
Beeston v Bowdon Hightown 14:00

Investec Conference West
Slough v Bristol Firebrands 14:00
Swansea City v Isca 14:00
Oxford Hawks v Cheltenham 14:00
Gloucester City v Stourport 14:00
Trojans v Olton and West Warwicks 14:00

Investec Conference North
Brooklands Poynton v Liverpool Sefton 14:00
Kendal v Wakefield 14:00
Whitley Bay & Tynemouth v Univ of Durham 14:00
Ben Rhydding v Sutton Coldfield 14:00
Loughborough Students v Cannock 14:00

Investec Conference East
Ipswich v Sevenoaks 14:00
Bedford v Maidenhead 14:00
Wimbledon v East Grinstead 14:00
Horsham v Chelmsford 14:00
Harleston Magpies v St Albans 14:00

Investec Women’s Finals Weekend: 18-19 April 2015

Tickets to the dramatic conclusion of the Investec Women’s Hockey League are now on sale. This showpiece event has relocated to Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the fantastic new venue of our international fixtures.

The Finals weekend will see England’s top women’s clubs compete for glory in the showpiece finale to the domestic leagues. Also on display will be the promotion tournaments where 9th place in the Premier Division battles it out against the winners of the three regional Conferences for two spots in the Premier Division for 2015/16. For full details click here.

Advance tickets cost from £17.50 for adults and just £5 for U18s. Weekend tickets are also available from £22.50 for adults and £8 for U18s.

EXCITING CASH-BACK SCHEME FOR CLUBS

England Hockey launches a new cash-back scheme for affiliated clubs, available for the NOW: Pensions Men's Finals Weekend, Investec Women's Finals Weekend and Nations Cup this April. Click here for more information.