East Grinstead looking to assert their advantage

East Grinstead looking to assert their advantage
With Loughborough Students on their bye week and missing a game because of Covid-19 restrictions, the opportunity opens up for East Grinstead to extend their lead at the top of the Women’s Hockey League Premier Division to six points.

The University of Birmingham, who lost 2-0 to Wimbledon, will have to plug their defensive gaps if they hope to swap the consistently forceful East Grinstead attack.

There are some intriguing fixtures to look forward to this weekend, not least when Holcombe play host to Hampstead & Westminster. It is an encounter between two well-matched teams who are level in the league and who both aspire to play innovative and creative hockey. 

“We had a really good competitive game against Clifton,” said Holcombe’s Head Coach Kevin Johnson. “They are a good side I have always had a lot of respect for, so to travel there and pick up the three points in a tough battle was great for us and a real lift after a break week and a frustrating result and performance two weeks previous.

“We just need to keep adding more quality into our performances. Every game so far has been competitive and the team is working very hard and giving everything for the cause, but we have been unable to produce consistent outcomes in key moments and phases at times so far. I will be asking us for more of this in future games and to keep demanding more from each other in training to help achieve this.”

The fact that Holcombe has taken time to settle is no real surprise; there were a number of comings and goings over the summer, so gelling as a team was always going to take time.  

It’s a fact that Johnson highlights: “It's been a steep learning curve with so many players leaving in the summer and a number of new arrivals to bed in, as well as me returning as coach.

“We have all had to work out what we can achieve with this different group; how to efficiently go about it to bring the best out of each other; and to continually review and challenge our processes around achieving that.

“It's been really fun though, despite the need to work hard and fast and there is a great spirit developing in the group. A good example of this is the way we have picked ourselves up after two losses to respond with better performances in the following games. This gives a lot of confidence that we all care a lot about doing the right things and to not focus on the negatives for too long.

“There is still a long way to go with where I want us to be but I'm also grateful in the current climate to just be able to be on a pitch regularly with the team and to enjoy what we do when so many people are compromised in this way currently in wider society with the COVID situation.”

Looking ahead to the match against Hampstead & Westminster, Johnson says the London-based team has a lot of experience and have been delivering a consistently good performance.

However, he adds: “For us right now it is about finding some consistency ourselves and worrying about the parts that are in our control. The focus for us will be purely about that, seeing if we can back up a good performance with the next good performance and then I know we are continuing to move forward as a group.”

When Wimbledon were promoted, they probably did not expect to find themselves in third place in the league at this stage of the season. The players have found their feet quickly and have shown they have both the physical and mental attributes to not just survive but also thrive at this level.

It helps to have the positivity of Olympian Alex Danson-Bennett urging them on from the bench while refining some of their attacking strategies, and the team will certainly travel to Beeston with high hopes of another three points. A match that promises plenty of entertaining action, you can watch the game live on the England Hockey Facebook page from 14:00 on Saturday 24 October.

Buckingham’s win over Swansea moved them up to joint fourth in the league and they will be looking to hit Clifton Robinsons while the Bristol side are still recovering from their unexpected loss to Holcombe.

Swansea will be without a game this weekend with their trip to Surbiton having been postponed.


Women’s Hockey League (Sat, 24 October 2020):
Premier Division
Beeston v Wimbledon 14:00
Buckingham v Clifton Robinsons 12:00
East Grinstead v Univ of Birmingham 15:00
Holcombe v Hampstead & Westminster 16:00

Division One South
Canterbury v Surbiton 2s 15:00

Conference East
Bromley & Beckenham v Horsham 12:30

Women’s Hockey League (Sun, 25 October 2020):
Division One North
Belper v Leicester City
Ben Rhydding v Stourport 13:30
Univ of Durham v Olton & West Warwicks 14:00
Univ of Nottingham v Gloucester City 12:30
Division One South
Reading  v Harleston Magpies 13:30
Sevenoaks v Trojans 13:30
Slough v Wimbledon 2s 14:00

Conference East
Chelmsford v Barnes 14:00
East London v Hampstead & Westminster 2s 12:00
Southgate Canterbury 2s 14:30
St Albans v Bedford 14:00

Conference West
Bristol Firebrands v Oxford University 13:00
Cheltenham v Oxford Hawks 12:30
Clifton Robinsons 2s v Basingstoke 14:00
Exe v Univ of Birmingham 2s TBC
Sutton Coldfield v Team Bath Buccaneers 13:30