Promotion Playoffs: Round Up

Canterbury's Craig Boyne celebrates

The battle to play in next season’s Premier Division started in earnest this past weekend, with four men’s teams and four women’s teams going head to head to get those all important first points on the board.

In the Men’s Promotion Playoffs Canterbury, fighting to retain their place in the top flight via the playoffs for a second consecutive season took on Richmond, winners of the East Conference. The match was a see-saw encounter with first blood going to the Kent side through Australian star Craig Boyne, opening the scoring in the 12th minute. Rhys Linnell cancelled that effort eight minutes before the break. Two goals in five second half minutes, a second from Boyne and an open play goal from James Oates seemed set to give the Polo Farm side a dream start as their lead stretched to 3-1. Richmond however were not done yet. Top scorer Charlie Ellison blasted home a trademark penalty corner with nine minutes left and then, just two minutes later Josh Smith levelled it up at 3-3. There was to be one final twist, however as Oates bagged his second, Canterbury’s fourth to seal the win and break Richmond hearts.

The other match paired Cardiff and Met winners of the West with Loughborough Students, top of the North. The game was a tight affair with no score at the break but just two minutes after the interval, England U21 international Ed Horler broke the deadlock with a penalty corner goal, his 18th strike of the season. Luke Taylor added another, also from a penalty corner in the 54th minute and then put a gloss on the score from the penalty spot in the final minute, swelling his goal tally to 27 for the season.

The teams now head to Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre for the remainder of the promotion playoffs with Cardiff and Met facing Canterbury on the Saturday and Loughborough taking on Richmond. The Sunday will pit Loughborough against Canterbury and Cardiff against Richmond as the teams fight tooth and nail to make it into the top flight next season.

The race for the Investec Women’s Premier Division is also hotting up with the first round of games taking place at Nottingham Hockey Centre, also this past Sunday.

Wakefield, winners of the North Conference came back for another crack at promotion after missing out in the playoffs last year. Their first opponents were Sutton Coldfield. The Mighty Pinks have been in devastating form in front of goal this campaign, notching 69 goals in 18 matches. They fell behind thanks to a ninth minute goal from Emily McGrath but then hit their stride with three strikes of their own from Sarah Parkinson-Mills’ penalty corner, Charlene Mason’s 44th minute strike and a penalty stroke from Jennifer Parkinson-Mills. Emma Berry gave Wakefield hope with 17 minutes remaining but they were unable to find an equaliser and Sutton Coldfield held on.

Slough celebrate their equaliser against Bowdon Hightown 

Slough, who also came to playoffs last season as winners of the West Conference are back again, as winners of the East. Their first match was against Investec Women’s Premier Division side Bowdon Hightown who are fighting for survival. Kim Tanner struck the opener in the fifth minute for the Seahorses but Lizzy Totten levelled for Slough in the 17th minute. Both sides had chances to go into the lead but it was Harriet Ward’s strike five minutes after half-time that proved to be the difference, handing Slough a 2-1 win.

Sutton Coldfield and Slough, the two winners on week one of the playoffs face off on Saturday 16 April at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre whilst Bowdon and Wakefield will also do battle.

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.