Slazenger EHL Roundup 16.02.09

In a packed schedule just three games fell foul of the weather this weekend, which meant a massive 61 games of exciting EHL hockey were staged over two days.

In Men’s Premier Division Reading took a step closer to reclaiming their 2007-08 title thanks to a 3-0 win over Havant, which leaves them just two points behind Cannock with a game – against Beeston – in hand.  Cannock slipped up for the second week running, this time dropping two points at home against Surbiton.  The game was tied at half-time and despite scoring a further three goals each in the second, Cannock's Gareth Andrew in action during his side's Slazenger EHL clash with Surbiton on 12 October 2008nothing could separate the two and it ended in a thrilling 4-4 draw as James Tindall and Gareth Andrew traded goal scoring blows in the 64th minute.  Hampstead and Westminster earned their third win of the season in a convincing 4-1 win at home to Bowdon, which moves them six points clear of the relegation play-off place.  Southgate lost both games at the weekend against top half opponents, a 4-2 away loss at Surbiton and a 1-8 home loss against East Grinstead.  East Grinstead lost ground on the title chase after suffering the force of a Martin Jones hat-trick at home on Saturday against Beeston.  Glenn Kirkham’s 57th minute goal turned out only to be a second consolation as the Sussex side were unable to complete the fight back for a share of the points.

Bowdon Hightown scored twelve goals in two games without conceding to continue their maximal record in Women’s Premier Division.  Chelmsford were demolished by Jo Ellis’ four goals, half of the league leaders' total, whilst Julie Hope scored twice (Bowdon Hightown’s third and fourth) to kill the game in the first half against Ipswich.  With two thirds of the season now played, one can begin to deliberate over their chances of a dream ‘unbeaten’ title.  To this point in the season they have averaged 3.7 goals per game whilst conceding an average of one goal in every two games; compelling statistics.  Olton & West Warwickshire's Denise Marston-Smith in Slazenger EHL action for her side during the 2008-2009 seasonOlton and WW’s 4-1 home win over Clifton retained their position as leaders of the chasing pack; all five of the goals came in the second half, Marston-Smith having sealed the victory by scoring twice in two minutes (56th and 57th). Clifton will have been disappointed with the result on Sunday having overturned a goal deficit in their 2-1 win at home over reigning champions Slough on Saturday, Abi Welsford scoring the winner.  Trojans edged one point further away from the relegation play-off after a 3-1 loss away at Canterbury that was followed up with a 1-1 draw against Poynton.  They are now one win clear of Ipswich who occupies the relegation play-off place.  Both Leicester and Slough had home games on Sunday postponed. 

Despite being held to a 3-3 draw with Holcombe on Sunday Indian Gymkhana moved to the top of Men’s Conference East having earned a 4-3 victory over Sevenoaks on Saturday in a re-arranged fixture.  Oxted drop to second, one point behind, after being held to a 2-2 draw by Canterbury.  At the foot of the table, Chelmsford’s survival hopes received a dramatic boost after they hammered fellow relegation strugglers City of Peterborough 10-1 at home; they have now taken 4 points from 3 games since the season restart. 

Belper, Brooklands MU and Durham University’s wins this weekend maintain status quo at the top of Men’s Conference North, just one point separates first from third.  At the bottom Telford and Wrekin lost twice, while Barford Tigers picked up a win over Leek, which leaves them five points adrift at the bottom of the table.

University of Exeter lost ground at the top of Men’s Conference West having been beaten 2-1 at home by Bournville. Thanks to that win, and a draw at home to Cardiff UWIC, Bournville move into second place, five points behind University of Exeter.  University of Birmingham picked up two valuable wins at the weekend having been on equal points with bottom of the table Firebrands, to move up into seventh and most importantly three points clear of the relegation play-offs.  Firebrands also picked up a win over Stourport to leave Cardiif UWIC bottom despite earning a draw.

Women’s Conference East was treated to one of the rarest of things in hockey, an own goal (although attributed to Liz Key as the last attacker). Sevenoaks were gifted the goal during their 1-3 loss at home to Horsham.  Following a penalty corner, which remained in attacking play in the circle, the ball was eventually scrambled off the line by a defender, but that clearance found only the back of the goalkeeper, and then, the back of the net.  On more familiar territory, Reading’s two wins at the weekend keep them in pole position six points clear of Barnes HE who picked up a win and a draw.  Staines beat Maidstone 2-1, with Maidstone’s goal a 69th minute consolation, in a relegation battle that moved Staines five points clear of bottom of the table Maidstone and level on points with St Albans.  St Albans then secured a vital draw against high flying Barnes HE to move just a point clear of the relegation play-off spot.

Loughborough Students continued their dominance of Women’s Conference North by extending their unbeaten run for the season to twelve thanks to a 6-0 win at home to Beeston.  Durham University won twice to keep up the pressure in second place four points behind their academic rivals.  Sunderland’s two losses will begin to sound alarm bells for relegation having only missed out on promotion to the Premier Division last season in the play-offs.  They currently occupy the relegation play-off place with a game in hand – against Belper – and are three points behind local rivals Whitley Bay & Tynemouth.

University of Birmingham’s 5-1 victory over Cannock – in a local derby – kept their title ambitions rolling with pace.  The top goal scorers in all divisions with 73 goals in twelve games they also boast the only defensive record that equals Bowdon Hightown’s 0.5 per game conceded.  Sutton Coldfield, four points behind in second, kept up with two dominant wins over Firebrands and Rover Oxford. St Austell earned a crucial point, in a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, on Saturday but find themselves further adrift at the bottom due to Rover Oxford’s 2-1 win over Aldridge.

The EHL would like to extend its gratitude to the NPUA for ensuring that enough umpires were available to cover the extraordinary number of games re-arranged from the previous weeks. Thanks, in particular, go to Colin Barthorpe (NPUA Appointments Co-ordinator) who worked tirelessly throughout the week to ensure this happened.

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