Hampstead prepare for Wimbledon challenge

Hampstead and Westminster's Will Calnan. Credit Tim Reder - 450

Hampstead and Westminster are heading to the Finals Weekend for the first time – and face a trip to leaders Wimbledon this Saturday in what could be a practice run for their semi final clash in the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division.

The two sides drew 2-2 when they met earlier in the season, but Hampstead will be aiming to beat them this weekend and send out a strong signal of intent to their rivals, then go on to beat Holcombe in their final match in a week’s time.

“These next two weeks will give us a great chance to see where we are,” said Hampstead and Westminster captain Toby Roche. “We don’t mind who we play in what order in the Finals. We want to win it, so we’ve got to beat the best to win championships.

“We’ve got a few players out at the World League, but we haven’t lost since before Christmas so we’re still confident and want to maintain that momentum.”

Elsewhere, Canterbury go to East Grinstead in search of valuable points in their bid to avoid relegation danger, while Brooklands MU entertain bottom of the table Loughborough Students. If both Brooklands and Canterbury win, it will set the season up nicely for the final week of the season when the two sides meet with avoiding the play-offs at stake.

Third-placed Surbiton are on the road to Reading for their penultimate game of the regular season, while Holcombe are at home against Beeston on Sunday afternoon.

Separated only by a one goal difference, the top two will meet on the final day of the season in the Men’s Conference East – but both need to focus on winning their games this weekend to take the race down to the wire.

Leaders Teddington go to Oxted this Saturday, while Sevenoaks are at home against Richmond.

At the other end of the table, strugglers Indian Gymkhana, who have been in the league since its inception in 1988, need a win against third-placed Southgate and hope Brighton and Hove do not beat Wapping, if they are to avoid relegation play-offs.

In the Men’s Conference West Cardiff and Met take on Chichester at Sophia Gardens, and will want to get back to winning ways following last weekend’s loss to Team Bath Buccaneers.

For their part, Team Bath go to Old Georgians as they continue their push for the title. University of Exeter retain an outside chance of finishing champions if Cardiff and Team Bath slip; they travel to Cheltenham.

Fareham host the University of Bristol with both sides battling relegation, while Isca and Chichester are also not safe – Isca are at home this weekend against the University of Birmingham.

The University of Durham will want to maintain their impressive 100 per cent record when they travel to Sheffield Hallam in the Men’s Conference North.

Meanwhile, the bottom two do battle with ninth-placed Oxton hosting bottom of the table Leek. Both are desperate for the win to avoid relegation danger.

* The above photograph shows Hampstead and Westminster’s Will Calnan in action against Surbiton. Credit: Tim Reder.

FIXTURES – Saturday, March 18

Men’s Hockey League

Men’s Premier Division
Brooklands MU v Loughborough Students 13:30
Wimbledon v Hampstead & Westminster 17:30
East Grinstead v Canterbury 18:00
Reading v Surbiton 18:30

Men’s Conference East
West Herts v Cambridge City 14:00
Indian Gymkhana v Southgate 14:00
Brighton and Hove v Wapping 15:30
Sevenoaks v Richmond 17:00
Oxted v Teddington 17:00

Men’s Conference North
Olton & West Warwicks v Bowdon 13:30
Preston v Deeside Ramblers 14:00
Oxton v Leek 14:30
Cannock v Doncaster 18:00
Sheffield Hallam v Univ of Durham 18:30

Men’s Conference West
Old Georgians v Team Bath Buccaneers
Isca v Univ of Birmingham 12:30
Cardiff & Met v Chichester 12:30
Cheltenham v Univ of Exeter 13:00
Fareham v Univ of Bristol 13:30

Sunday, March 19

Men’s Premier Division
Holcombe v Beeston 13:30