Investec Women’s Premier League: Week 3 Preview.

With the second round of games now over and done with, two teams have edged their way out in front at the top of the table, winning both their opening fixtures.
The first of these sides, Canterbury, followed up their excellent opening day win over Reading with a hard-fought 1-0 home victory over University of Birmingham. Lucy Barnes netted the winner in the 9th minute for Jen Wilson’s side. Their opponents this weekend are Bowdon Hightown, who themselves had a 1-0 win this past week, over Leicester. Player-Coach Tina Cullen is understandably very happy with her team’s efforts:
“We always felt we could come to Leicester and get something. We’d have taken a point but some of my players were absolutely outstanding so we’re delighted to pick up a win. The good thing about our squad is whoever we lose, the rest of us are united and we don’t go down without a fight. We showed that in this game.”
Looking ahead to her team’s top of the table clash this weekend, Cullen told The Top of the D:
“Canterbury are a bit of an unknown force due to the player movements they’ve had over the summer. Obviously losing Susannah Townsend is a blow to them, but they’ve started well so it will be a tough game as always. We’re developing all the time and our young players are settling into the team so we’re hopeful we can get another good result.”

Investec Women's Finals WeekendReading produced the most eye-catching of the weekend’s results with a 12-0 hiding of Olton and West Warwicks. Great Britain’s Alex Danson scored six times as the Sonning Lane side put their opening day disappointment against Canterbury firmly behind them. Steve Bayer, Reading coach was happy with the response from his team:
“It was a good result and I was pleased with the three points. We executed our chances well and played with a lot more fluidity than last week.”
Reading travel to Beeston this week in what should be an intriguing game. Both sides have a handsome win (Beeston beat Sutton Coldfield 7-0 in their opening fixture) and a narrow defeat to their names, (the Bees lost out to Clifton 1-0 in week 2) making this a very tight one to call. Bayer should have full availability for his side and is relishing the task at hand:
“This week will be a different test at Beeston. They are the newcomers to the league and had a good first weekend result, scoring lots of goals. It should be a good game and we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Clifton, Beeston’s conquerors last weekend face University of Birmingham. The Students will be hoping to get off the mark after two defeats in their opening two games, but Clifton are in good form picking up four points from a possible six. Coach Steve Rixon told TTOTD:
“I was pleased with our intensity and game plan against Beeston. We wanted to build pressure and not be forced to play catch-up and we did this very well especially in the second half.  Of course 1-0 is always too close for comfort and we need to convert more of the chances we create.”
Despite Birmingham’s tough start to the season, Rixon is not taking Clifton’s opponents lightly:
“They have added several new faces to a very talented squad and we expect a very competitive fixture on Saturday as we do in all our games.”

Georgie Twigg hopes to continue her early season goalscoring form as her Surbiton side go up against bottom team Olton and West Warwicks. Twigg has struck in both of the Sugden Road outfit’s league games so far. Surbiton picked up a point against Clifton and then a 3-1 win over Sutton Coldfield last weekend. Olton need to shore up a leaky defence as they have conceded 17 goals in two games.

That just leaves the local derby between Sutton Coldfield, winless after two games, and last season’s Championship Runners-Up Leicester. Three points are important for both sides, for different reasons: Sutton will hope to arrest their slide by picking up their first points of the season and Leicester will be trying to get their first win under new coach David Mayer.
Leicester star Katie Long was in no doubt what her side needed to change after their defeat against Hightown last week:
“We just need to work on our basics. Our skills weren’t good enough all over the pitch. Hockey is about passing and stopping the ball, neither of which we did very well against Bowdon. We’ll go back to basics and be out to prove a point against Sutton Coldfield.”

Coach Mayer added: “We never underestimate anyone. We treat every game in the same manner. It’s a local derby, so Sutton will be up for it.  It’s a good opportunity to get back to form, even though derby games are always tough. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

The season is still in its early stages, so not time to panic just yet, however those teams near the wrong end of the table will be desperate to get some points on the board. Those teams with championship aspirations will aim to continue their momentum and will feel each and every game is crucial.

As always, you can see the results and scorers on the England Hockey Website.

Photos courtesy of Ady Kerry.

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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