It was a mixed day for Wimbledon and Surbiton as the Investec League Finals Weekend got underway at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre today.
Reigning champions Surbiton eased into tomorrow’s final by beating the University of Birmingham 3-1, but Wimbledon’s hopes of promotion took a blow as they lost 3-2 to Bowdon Hightown in a pulsating game.
Surbiton’s victory can be largely attributed to two scintillating goals from Beckie Middleton and Hannah Martin, both of whom slalomed their way through a wall of Birmingham defenders before thundering shots into the net.
Martin in particular was in fine form throughout, her unbelievable ball control mesmerising players and fans alike, and is happy her strike managed to contribute towards yet another win for her side to set up a mouth-watering clash with Holcombe.
The 22-year-old said: “I suppose it was quite lucky to go in in the end after riding quite a few tackles, but it feels great. It was a great team performance.
“It doesn’t matter who scores them really as long as we manage to get through to the final, which we did today.”
After a Birmingham goal was disallowed early on, Surbiton took the lead in the 12th minute as Giselle Ansley converted yet another penalty corner for her 21st goal in all competitions this season.
The university side hit back eight minutes later through Erica Sanders but Middleton took the game by the scruff of the neck shortly after to put her side back ahead, before Martin’s stunner halfway through the second half sealed a hard-fought win.
“I feel really, really chuffed and am really glad we made it to the final tomorrow,” Martin said.
“The Birmingham game was a really amazing one, we had to put in a gritty performance and I’m glad we came out winners.
“Now we’ve just got to go out there tomorrow, give the best we can and see what happens. But I’m feeling really, really confident.”
Wimbledon’s day was not so rosy as three penalty corners were enough for Bowdon to claim victory from a frenetic game, the goals coming from Michelle Liptrot, Charlene Mason and Natalie Wray.
Crista Cullen had levelled the scores at 1-1 in the first half before Bowdon raced into a two-goal lead by the 38th minute.
Wimbledon pushed hard however and Tamsyn Naylor set up a thrilling finish by scoring with a superb reverse shots with three minutes left, but it wasn’t enough to stop them from slipping to just their third defeat all season.
Despite this, captain Nikki Lloyd remains positive ahead of their final play-off game against Buckingham tomorrow.
The midfielder said: “I don’t think it was our best performance today but there were so many positives.
“It just shows that we never give up, coming back from 3-1 down with 15 minutes left to score that really good goal and have that nail biting finish at the end.
“We’re still in it, all we need to do is win tomorrow, which is what we wanted to do anyway, and the prem is still on the cards.”
With Bowdon now certain of retaining their Investec Women’s Hockey Premier League status having won both of their play-off fixtures, Wimbledon’s game against Buckingham will decide who takes the remaining spot in the top tier, both having won one and lost one so far.
And despite the setback against Bowdon, Lloyd is confident her team will obtain the promotion they believe they deserve after strolling to the Conference East title this season.
“Now we eat, go back to the hotel to recover, have a swim, debrief this game and then put it to bed, before watching the video to prepare for Bucks,” she said.
“We will win tomorrow, we will go to the prem.
“That’s been what we’ve said all season and we’re thoroughly motivated for that.”