It’s the night when the eyes of the nation turn towards Wembley as England Hockey hosts their big night in. With the Premier League’s outdoor season due to start again on the 12th of February there is still time for the Hockey Nation to focus on the grand finale of the domestic indoor season.
The women’s final is due to be contested by Reading and Leicester. The men’s semi finals see East Grinstead and Reading face off and Bowdon and Beeston battle it out in the other match. It promises to be an exciting, action-packed evening for everyone.
So, with one of the biggest nights of England’s hockey calendar almost upon us, The Top of the D looks at each of the teams involved to give you a flavour of what to expect.
WOMEN’S MAXIFUEL SUPER SIXES FINAL: LEICESTER VS READING.
One of the heavyweights of the Women’s game in this country for the last few years. The Pukkas know what it’s like to be successful, finishing top of the outdoor league in 2 of the last 4 seasons, and winning the cup in 2010. At present, they lie second in the Premier League, behind their finals opponents Reading. Whilst the gap is 7 points, Leicester can take some heart from being the only side to inflict a league defeat on them this season.
Players to watch:
Both sides are missing some of their star names due to Great Britain call ups, but in Maddie Hinch Leicester have as good a goalkeeper as there is. Captain Vanessa Hawkins leads by example and certainly knows where the goal is. Of course, it would be foolish to miss out Katie Long: Herself a Great Britain International. Long is a class act with a big game temperament, who has been there and done it.
Reading are relative latecomers to the Premier Division (outdoors), gaining promotion in 2008/9. They finished second in their first season in the top flight and have not looked back since, assembling an impressive squad which won the Women’s Championship tournament last season. They are currently top of the Premier League but will know they face a stern test against Leicester who, as mentioned above, are the only side to defeat them in the league this time out.
The Sonning Lane club actually looked to be in trouble after the first weekend of the Maxifuel Super Sixes, sitting seventh with only one win. However, on week two they won all their games, scoring 26 goals in the process and securing the fourth qualification place. Reading then beat Bowdon Hightown in the Semi Final by 3 goals to 2, gaining revenge for their finals defeat the year before.
Players to watch:
The involvement of many of their star names in the Great Britain set-up means Reading will be without some familiar faces.
Emma Thomas scored important goals in the league section of the competition and then again in the semi-final so will undoubtedly pose a threat. Chantal De Bruijn has ability and experience in abundance whilst Samantha Quek is a current Great Britain international, and will play an important role. Oh, and Meredith Bone has an excellent surname, so watch out for her.
MEN’S MAXIFUEL SUPER SIXES SEMI FINALS:
EAST GRINSTEAD VS READING.
What can you say about the boys from Saint Hill? They are top of the outdoor league, a fixture at the end of season championship tournament and reigning indoor champions (adding to their titles in 2006, 2009, 2010.) They are
currently the team to beat. If experience wins you titles, then they have to feel confident of their chances. Reading are no mugs, but East Grinstead will fear no one.
The Sussex side qualified top of the league, winning 7 and drawing just one of their games. They scored 50 goals in those 8 games, too.
Players to watch:
Well, take your pick. Unlike the ladies’ competition, the men have access to their star players. East Grinstead can call upon Mark Pearn, Glenn Kirkham, Barry Middleton and of course, the talismanic Ashley Jackson. It is an impressive array of international stars. Keep an eye on David De Prez too: not a household name, but he did score a hat-trick in last year’s final and has been in similar form in front of goal this year.
Reading currently sit third in the Premier League (outdoor) and will hope for a repeat of their 3-2 win over East Grinstead earlier on in the season. They have plenty of pedigree and will therefore not be afraid of their opponents, no matter how daunting the task may seem. Quite simply, when Reading play East Grinstead, all the form goes out of the window. Such is the talent in the Sonning Lane ranks; they are more than capable of winning this game.
Like their women’s side, Reading’s men ended week one in 7th place, with just one win to their name. In week two they put together a string of impressive performances, winning three of their last four games and sneaking into the fourth qualification slot on goal difference ahead of Surbiton. They actually scored more goals than East Grinstead in qualifying (53) but conceded more too.
Players to watch:
Reading have a plethora of quality international stars at their disposal. Nick Brothers is one of the best indoor goalkeepers around. Richard Mantell is a colossus in defence and a huge threat from short corners. Jonty Clarke has the close control, skills and eye for goal that make him a threat to even the tightest defence, whilst Simon Mantell, (Richard’s younger brother) has that something a bit special that can win a game in the blink of an eye.
This game should be one hell of a spectacle.
Beeston vs. Bowdon.
The Bees are currently fourth in the outdoor league, but are also the Premier League Champions after they beat East Grinstead in the final last season. They have won the EH Cup three out of the last four seasons. They might have only enjoyed their success relatively recently, but they are making up for lost time now. Like Reading, Beeston are capable of beating anyone on their day, so the form book may not be a consideration.
Beeston qualified in third place. They had a solid first week and were sitting just outside the qualification places thanks largely to goals from Tim Davenport and Paddy Schmidt. They did what was needed in the second week, winning three of the four games they played. Beeston did, however lose to their Semi Final opponents during the qualification phase.
Players to watch:
Captain Adam Dixon is a fixture in the Great Britain squad now and is a hugely talented and hugely important player to his side. The same applies to Alistair Wilson who is expected to be fit to play. George Pinner is a top class goalkeeper who of course was the hero of the semi-final in last year’s competition. The lion’s share of the goals in qualifying came from Tim Davenport and Paddy Schmidt so expect them to be central to Beeston’s hopes. Keep an eye out for ex-Lewes star Ben Hawes, too.
Bowdon are probably the underdogs in this competition. Currently 8th out of the ten sides in the Premier League, the Maxifuel Super Sixes has provided a welcome distraction from their outdoor troubles.
In spite of this, their form in the qualifying tournament cannot be underestimated: 6 wins from 8 games and only one loss, a narrow 4-3 defeat to East Grinstead. Perhaps most importantly, they defeated Beeston by 7 goals to 4 in this
campaign. They need to look no further than that result for their inspiration.
Players to Watch:
Simon Egerton proved to be something of a goal machine during the qualifiers and will be a vital component of any success Bowdon are to have this weekend. Alastair Brogdon has international honours and is an experienced head that will not be phased by the occasion. Whilst not a galaxy of stars like some of the other sides in the Semi Finals, Bowdon are a hugely effective team who will be more than capable of an upset.
So there you have it. A fantastic day of hockey in store for all of the Hockey Nation. Who will run out winners? Why not tell us what you think by using the poll below?
You can still buy tickets for the event by clicking here.
You can watch England Hockey’s promotional video for the event here.
You can also watch the action on Sky Sports, details here.