East Grinstead blitz Slough in hunt for promotion

Sophie Bray slides in to score her hat-trick against Slough

EAST GRINSTEAD 7 (5)
Sophie Bray 4, 17, 29 (FG, PC, FG)
Lucy Brown 6 (FG)
Alicia Caillard 13 (FG)
Julia Blackstock 57 (PC)
Heather Batten 70 (FG)

SLOUGH 1 (1)
Dilly Newton 12 (PC)

A first half hat-trick from East Grinstead’s Sophie Bray breathed new life into the Sussex side’s playoff hopes as they swept aside Slough in the first game of the weekend.

Click here for all the scores and results from today.

The Great Britain star struck the first blow after just four minutes latching onto a defensive slip in the circle to slide the ball home on the backhand.

East Grinstead struck their second just two minutes later, this time it was Lucy Brown showing a poacher’s instinct, turning and firing into the far corner.

Slough found their way back into the game pulling one back through Dilly Newton but their joy was short lived as moments later Bray turned provider, driving round the left and cutting back for Alicia Calliard to apply the finish. Bray made it four from a penalty corner on 16 minutes as Slough struggled to get a foothold in the game.

It could have been even better for the side from Saint Hill but Pippa Rabey’s penalty stroke was brilliantly saved by Amy Gibson. With six minutes left in the half, the fifth goal did arrive. Brown stole possession inside her own half and broke forwards, her pass to Bray was perfectly weighted and the No19 beat Gibson to the ball and lifted it in, sending East Grinstead in at the break 5-1 ahead.

The second half took some time to get going as the sides battled for control of the midfield. Bray was a threat once more as her run and powerful shot drew a superb near-post save out of Gibson in the seventh minute of the half. Rabey also drew a block out of Gibson as the Scotland goalkeeper continued to defy East Grinstead in the second half.

With a little over 14 minutes remaining Mary Booth’s side grabbed their sixth. The penalty corner was not their slickest but Julia Blackstock was alive to the situation and forced the ball home from close range. Slough forced a penalty corner with eight minutes left but the East Grinstead defence stood firm and cleared the danger.

In the last minute East Grinstead’s Ruth Gordon drove into the circle and fired a backhand shot goalwards which Heather Batten turned in to put a gloss on the scoreline and left if all to play for going into Sunday’s games.

A delighted Sophie Bray told England Hockey afterwards:

“It was a final for us today, we had to come out and win, and we had a good start and then just kept the momentum up from that. We started slowly in the last playoff game, and we knew we couldn't go a few goals down today, so we took it to Slough and got ourselves in front. Today's win was really only one step, it'll mean nothing if we don't go do the job tomorrow, so hopefully we can put in another performance against Wakefield.”

Slough captain Kat McGonigle could not hide her disappointment but stressed the need to look ahead, saying:

“We have to regroup and put this game to bed. There's a lot to learn from, but we need to pick up on the positives to go into tomorrow's game. We're going to need a win and hopefully a big win because I'm sure goal difference is now going to come into play.”

Both sides still have a chance of promotion with Slough facing Buckingham and East Grinstead going up against Wakefield tomorrow in the final round of games.

Investec Women’s Finals Weekend - Promotion Play-Offs standings

Team P W D L GF GA GD Points
1 Buckingham 2 2 0 0 6 4 2 6
2 East Grinstead 2 1 0 1 10 5 5 3
3 Slough 2 1 0 1 4 7 -3 3
4 Wakefield 2 0 0 2 1 5 -4 0

Investec Women’s Finals Weekend – Promotion Play-Offs - results so far

Sunday 29 March – Cannock Hockey Club

Match 1: Wakefield [North] 0 - 3 Slough [West]

Match 2: East Grinstead [East] 3 - 4 Buckingham [Prem]

Saturday 18 April – Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre

Match 3: East Grinstead [East] 7 - 1 Slough [West]

Match 4: Wakefield [North] 1 - 2 Buckingham [Prem]

Sunday 19 April – Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre

Match 5: Slough [West] v Buckingham [Prem] 1045 Pitch 1 

Match 6: Wakefield [North] v East Grinstead [East] 1045 Pitch 2