Men's Hockey League Promotion Playoffs

Craig Boyne in action for Canterbury

For Cardiff and Met, Loughborough Students, Richmond and Canterbury, this weekend starts a crucial run of three games in the Men’s Hockey League Promotion playoffs as the battle to take the two coveted spaces in next season’s Premier Division starts at Nottingham Hockey Centre.

With the four teams set to battle it out over a round robin format, with only the top two getting top flight hockey the first game, this Sunday is vitally important. With games two and three on 16-17 April at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre it is set to be a dramatic few weeks.

The first game of the playoff tournament is Cardiff and Met, the best of the West, taking on Loughborough Students, champions of the North.

Cardiff have been here before, of course, most recently taking their place in the playoffs in 2014. In two agonizingly close matches, the Welsh side were edged out by Southgate (1-0) and Brooklands MU (2-1) before blitzing Sheffield Hallam in their last game. It was in vain as they finished third, just outside the promotion spots. Now they are back for another shot at the big time. With Luke Hawker in a rich vein of goalscoring form (13 league goals this season) ably supported by Rhys Gowman (six goals) Cardiff won the West Conference by nine points. They will be hoping their previous experience at this level will stand them in good stead this time out.

Their opponents, Loughborough have had an outstanding season. Despite a strong challenge from Bowdon, the Students also won their conference by nine points, scoring an incredible 76 goals on the way to the title. Luke Taylor has contributed 25 of those, all from penalty corners, whilst Ed Horler has chipped in 17 strikes. Cardiff will need to be on their mettle defending set pieces to keep Taylor out whilst Horler’s movement and eye for goal will give them a stern test.

The other match is Premier Division outfit Canterbury who continue their fight for survival against Richmond. There is a certain sense of déjà vu for the Kent side, who found themselves in this situation last season. This campaign, like last, saw them rooted to the foot of the table at Christmas. It took until February for Canterbury to register their first win. Buoyed by this they picked up five wins out of the last seven to leapfrog Cannock and give themselves a lifeline. Their form is good and their experience of last time out means they know what it will take to get the job done. Can Canterbury pull off another great escape?

Standing in their way in the first match of the promotion playoffs will be Richmond. The East Conference Champions won their division by five points, holding off a strong Southgate side to take the title. Charlie Ellison has been their main man this season, netting 25 times, 23 from penalty corners. With the experience of former Reading keeper Jamie Legg and the ageless Mark Pearn in their ranks, Richmond, who plundered 55 goals in 18 games this season will certainly not be shrinking violets in what should be an entertaining match.

Who will grab those all-important three points from the opening matches? We don’t have long to wait to find out.

Sunday 3 April 2016 (Nottingham Hockey Centre)

1330 Men's Hockey League Playoff: Loughborough Students vs. Cardiff and Met

1530 Men's Hockey League Playoff: Canterbury vs. Richmond

Tickets are now on sale to the end of season playoffs. As well as the exciting conclusion to the promotion matches there are also the semi-finals and final to decide who is crowned champions. Don't miss out buy yours today.