Clifton will be hoping to overcome the disappointment of their cup semi-final defeat to Surbiton with a strong showing in the play-offs. Their squad boasts a good mix of youth and experience with a touch of international class thrown in for good measure.
They finished the season seven points clear of opponents Bowdon Hightown and have managed five wins, one draw and one loss since Christmas in the league.
Final League Position: 4th.
Key Players: Georgie Twigg is the star name that undoubtedly gives their side some class. However, look no further than Els Mansell and Zoe Leach: 20 goals between them this season (12 to Mansell and 8 to Leach) is not to be sneezed at. Put simply, if Mansell and Leach perform, Clifton have a good chance.
Because of their league position, Bowdon will go into this game as slight underdogs. Make no mistake though; they are not a side to be taken lightly. The Top of the D watched Bowdon hold Reading to a 0-0 draw in atrocious conditions at Sonning Lane and was impressed by how well organised and difficult to break down they were. Their form since Christmas is won three, drawn three, lost once. Which although not blistering in itself, also takes in draws against the top two, Leicester and Reading. Proof, if proof were needed that Bowdon are a match for anyone.
Final League Position: 5th.
Key Players: Kirsty Mackay is as good a goalkeeper as there is, and in the event of getting through the Bowdon backline, it is no mean feat to beat her as well. Nicky O’Donnell has the big game experience, having played international hockey during her career, whilst Sally Walton has an eye for goal (7 in the league this season) and the ability to match. However, the most important player is probably the evergreen Tina Cullen. 42 years of age, and still a class act. She has scored 17 goals this season, including 14 from open play. Chances in these games are few and far between. Having someone like Cullen, who only needs one, is a big advantage.
Part two of this preview will follow later on today.