W1 Beat Clifton Robinsons 4-1
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Women beat Clifton Robinsons 4-1 on Saturday afternoon to finish five points ahead of second-placed Reading at the end of Phase One of the Vitality Women's Hockey League Premier Division season.
Reading beat Beeston 2-1 and were also assured of second place after last weekend's results, finishing a massive six points ahead of third-placed East Grinstead.
The game at Sugden Road can be watched back via the Surbiton Hockey Club channel on You Tube here
The game starts in the thirteenth minute of the video.
Surbiton were without their international players, although Giselle Ansley, who appeared for the first time last week at Bowdon, retained her place in the squad and initiated Surbiton's second half comeback from 1-0 down.
Surbiton gave a debut to Sarah Johnston with goalkeeper Delphine Ayitey-Hammond unlucky not to keep a clean sheet while replacing Sabbie Heesh.
The first half was scrappy with both sides struggling to be consistent and maintain possession of the ball. Surbiton had an early penalty corner opportunity but Clifton, who battled in the first half whilst trying to unsettle the hosts tactically, successfully blocked the shot.
Clifton have only ever beaten Surbiton once in the Premier Division, but they were on course for a second win in the 16th minute when former Surbiton player Holly Munro managed to hit the ball against the backboard from the visitors' only penalty corner of the match.
Clifton had Sara Davies to towards the end of the first half as she successfully defended against Surbiton's Eloise Stenner and then stopped a passing move between Johnston and Elani Sherwood in quick succession.
Surbiton became frustrated as a passing move between Stenner and Johnston saw the ball speed over Clifton's back-line and Amie Hunt's shot resulted in a Clifton free-hit, whilst Munro stayed calm and brought the ball out of defence under pressure to help preserve the visitors' lead.
Trailing 1-0 at the interval, Surbiton seemed more focussed on attack in the third quarter, Katie Curtis carrying the ball from the left wing to the centre of the pitch to try and find a gap in the Clifton defence.
The turning point came in the 40th minute when Steph Elliott was pushed over in the circle, resulting in a penalty stroke award. Up stepped Ansley to slot the ball to Aline de Visser's left and against the backboard to level the score at 1-1. Ansley became the fourth Surbiton player to score a penalty stroke after Hannah French, Sarah Evans and Leah Wilkinson.
Three minutes later, Elliott changed from penalty stroke winner to goal provider as a short pass in the circle found Evans who lifted the ball into the net to put Surbiton ahead for the first time in the match.
Evans struck again in the 56th minute, this time from Surbiton's third penalty corner. Surbiton initially thought that a preceding corner had resulted in a Clifton hit out, but after an umpire consultation a second successive corner was awarded with Evans gaining possession of the injected ball before firing the ball home from the edge of the circle.
Surbiton's fourth goal came in added on time after the final whistle from the third of three successive penalty corner awards. Wilkinson duly deflected the ball past de Visser for her sixth goal of the season and scored for the third match in a row after netting at the University of Nottingham and at Bowdon.
Surbiton's victory dashed Clifton's hopes of qualifying for the Top Six, the Bristol club finishing ninth, but just two points off sixth place in a congested table which saw just three points separate fifth to ninth places.
Lizzie Gittens and Shona McCallin scored in Reading's home win over Beeston with Jane Kilpatrick scoring late for the Nottingham club.
East Grinstead, who started the season with three defeats in the first four matches, recovered to finish third after a 2-1 win at Loughborough Students. Beth Alexander gave Loughborough a 1-0 half time lead but Chloe Brown and Biba Mills both scored in the fourth quarter to turn the match around.
Hampstead & Westminster finished fourth after a 1-1 draw with Bowdon, who clinched their place in the Top Six with the point. Madi Ratcliffe put Hampstead ahead, but Alia Jaques, who scored early against Surbiton last week, rescued a valuable point from another penalty corner with eleven minutes to play.
Fifth spot was claimed by the University of Nottingham in spite of being held to a 1-1 home draw by Wimbledon. The students needed Holly Nixon's penalty corner six minutes from time to salvage a point after Fiona Burnet gave Wimbledon a first quarter lead.
Bowdon's draw denied the University of Birmingham a place in the Top Six, Birmingham winning 2-0 at bottom club Isca and University of Exeter. Sarah Parkinson-Mills and Lily Sokhi both scored in the third quarter.
Surbiton Women will now focus on the Super Sixes Premier Division at Repton over the weekends of 6th and 7th and 13th and 14th of January.