Photo credit: @smifsports (Twitter)
The game of the weekend in the Vitality Women’s Premier Division came at Bristol University as Clifton Robinsons edged Loughborough Students 5-4 in a thriller.
Clifton were cruising as strikes from Tilly Edwards, Clemmie Houlden, Catherine Macaulay and Abbie Porter fired them into a 4-0 lead, only for Loughborough to come roaring back through Alice Rolfe, Maddie Goodman and Iona Campbell goals.
Claire Jones then put the hosts two goals ahead once more before Kirby Harris’s finish made it 5-4 and set up a frantic final eight minutes, in which Clifton clung on for the win.
Elsewhere, Hampstead & Westminster continued their brilliant start to the season with a 3-0 victory over Holcombe.
Lucy Hyams – scoring for the third game in a row – was the hat-trick hero for the table-toppers as she produced a lovely fifth-minute reverse strike, adding a second after a neat dribble down the right on 41 minutes and completed her treble 16 minutes from time from a penalty corner routine. The victory made it six in a row for the H&W side co-coached by Kate Richardson-Walsh and Sarah Kelleher.
Meanwhile, history was made as local rivals Surbiton and Wimbledon met for the very first time and played out an engaging 1-1 draw.
The two sides had previously come close to meeting in 2008/09, when Wimbledon were relegated to South Division 2 and narrowly missed Surbiton, who were promoted to Division 1 before immediately moving into the top flight.
And the long-awaited clash was as tense as expected, with England and Great Britain international Fiona Crackles giving visitors Wimbledon a 21st-minute lead.
The Dons have the tightest defence in the Premier Division but were breached for just the fifth time this season on 55 minutes as Darcy Bourne found the net, ensuring the spoils were shared and maintaining Surbiton’s unbeaten record.
East Grinstead recorded a third victory of the campaign as they inflicted more misery on winless Swansea with a 4-1 triumph.
Chloe Palmer opened the scoring early on and Olympic bronze medallist Ellie Rayer netted twice to make the score 3-0 before the end of the first quarter. Autumn Bowden then got her name on the scoresheet in the second half, although Jess Roe’s successful penalty stroke at the death at least gave Swansea something to celebrate.
And in the division’s final game, University of Birmingham and Beeston both ended their recent losing runs with a 2-2 draw – Lucy Millington and Alicia Huddlestone twice giving the Nottinghamshire side the lead, only for Millie Atwell and Becky Manton to cancel it out each time
Division One North
University of Nottingham and Bowdon Hightown both remain unbeaten in Division One North but the university side dropped their first points of the season as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Leicester City. It means Bowdon now stand alone at the top with 15 points from 15 after coming from a goal down to beat Brooklands Poynton 3-1, while University of Durham are third following a fourth win in five – crushing winless Belper 5-0. Gloucester City and Ben Rhydding drew 1-1, while in the late game on Saturday evening, goals from Sarah Parkinson-Mills and Laura Price enabled Stourport to beat Olton & West Warwicks 2-0.
Division One South
In Division One South, an enthralling top-of-the-table clash between Sevenoaks and Reading ended 3-3, with both sides staying unbeaten but Sevenoaks two points ahead due to their additional win. There was also a battle between third and fourth, with a solitary goal enough to hand Surbiton 2s a 1-0 away at Cambridge City, who were leapfrogged in the table by Slough after Anna Baker notched twice in a 4-2 triumph over Canterbury. Trojans are still winless after slipping to a 3-0 defeat at Isca, while Wimbledon 2s edged past Harleston Magpies 3-2 for their first victory of the year.
Heading into Saturday’s game, London Wayfarers and Horsham had conceded just three goals between them all season but proceeded to more than double that tally with a four-goal thriller at Christs Hospital. They ultimately drew 2-2 to leave the Wayfarers top of the Conference East although Southgate and Barnes both moved within a point after 2-1 and 4-2 victories over Hamstead & Westminster 2s and Chelmsford respectively. East London are fifth after beating Bromley & Beckenham 2-1 away from home, while Canterbury 2s and Ipswich played out an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Sutton Coldfield stayed top of the Conference Midlands table and retained their record as the only unbeaten side in the division with a 5-0 thrashing of Loughborough Students 2s. There were 4-2 wins for both Broxbourne (at home to Khalsa Leamington) and Bedford (away to University of Birmingham 2s), while Oxford University edged past Cannock 2-1. However, goals were impossible to come by at the Nottingham Hockey Centre as Beeston 2s drew 0-0 with St Albans.
Timperley’s 100 per cent record came crashing down in the Conference North as University of Durham 2s impressively downed the high-flyers 3-1. Timperley are still top of the table but Doncaster took the opportunity to close the gap by edging to a 1-0 victory over Didsbury Northern, while Fylde missed a chance to move closer as they laboured to a 0-0 draw with Leeds. Meanwhile, Pendle Forest and Wakefield both recorded their second victories of the campaign, with the former defeating Neston 2-1 and the latter cruising to a 4-1 triumph over Alderley Edge.
The local derby between Conference West leaders Bristol Firebrands and rivals Clifton Robinsons 2s failed to spark into life, with the contest ending 0-0. Second-placed Witney faced bottom-of-the-table University of Bristol and the result ultimately went to form as Witney won 2-1, the same score by which Exe beat Penarth and Oxford Hawks downed Team Bath Buccaneers. And a tense encounter at Balcarras School saw Cheltenham slip to a 1-0 loss to visiting Basingstoke.