Investec Women's Hockey League Promotion Playoffs

Bowdon Hightown's Sally Walton in full flow

This weekend is the start of a crucial run of games for four teams in the Investec Women’s Hockey League. Sunday is the first of the round robin matches to determine who from Wakefield, Sutton Coldfield, Slough and Bowdon Hightown will compete in the Investec Women’s Premier Division next season. With only two places up for grabs a good start is imperative for all of these teams. Who will get those all-important points on the board? We take a look at the competitors.

The first of the matches pits Wakefield, the winners of the North Conference against Sutton Coldfield, triumphant in the West.

Wakefield of course competed in the playoffs last season, but missed out to East Grinstead and Buckingham who earned the top flight status instead. They have had an impressive campaign, winning the North by two points ahead of Ben Rhydding who pushed them all the way.

Wakefield have netted 41 times across the 18 games with Rosie Tootell helping herself to nine of those goals. What is impressive about the North Champions is the spread of goalscorers with Heather Stafford contributing eight goals, Cat Horn seven and Georgie Byas six, meaning Wakefield when on song can score goals from all over.

Their opponents first up are Sutton Coldfield who have been in blistering form in the West, scooping the title by six points from Stourport and plundering 69 goals in 18 games on their way. Sutton competed in this tournament in 2014 becoming the first side to be relegated from the top flight via the playoffs since their inception in 2009. Now, the free-scoring Mighty Pinks are right back in the mix to regain top flight hockey. The return of Vicky Woolford has galvanised them, with the striker bagging 16 goals this season ably assisted by the combative Emma McCabe (12 goals), Susan Wood (nine) and of course Jane Sixsmith (8). Sutton’s all out attack approach could well pay dividends and their clash with Wakefield promises to be an exciting one.

The other opening game of the promotion tournament pits Slough against Premier Division side Bowdon Hightown.

Hightown have had a tough season in the top flight, almost slipping through the trap door via the automatic relegation place, a fate they were spared thanks to a heroic 5-3 win over Reading on the last day of the season. Undoubtedly there is an abundance of talent in their ranks, with goalkeeper Amy Tennant one of the finest stoppers in the top flight being a good example of that. Sally Walton too has played her part scoring ten times including a double in that all-important Reading win. The Seahorses have handed themselves a lifeline and will be desperate to capitalise on it.

Their first opponents are Slough. The Pink and Blacks competed in the playoffs last year after winning the West but were edged out in their quest for Premier Division hockey. A move to the East Conference did not deter them and they promptly won that, scoring 51 times on the way with Amy Sheehan netting 19 of those. Sheehan’s feat is even more impressive when you consider 18 of those goals have come from open play. They have a corner threat too, as Dilly Newton (7 goals) proves whilst Charly Brydon continued her good form in front of goal by contributing six strikes herself. Slough were bitterly disappointed last season, with a feeling they didn’t do themselves justice in the playoffs. They will hope to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

Two massive games. Four teams battling it out to reach the Investec Women’s Premier Division. It all starts this Sunday. Who can hold their nerve and get the points on the board?

Sunday 03 April – Nottingham Hockey Centre

1330 Investec Women's Hockey League Play-Offs: Wakefield vs. Sutton Coldfield

15:30 Investec Women's Hockey League Play-Offs: Slough vs. Bowdon Hightown

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.