With the resumption of the Investec Women’s Premier League looming large on the horizon, The Top of the D has already run the rule over the top five teams. Now, with Saturday’s games just a day away, here are the teams occupying positions 6-10.
P11 W4 D5 L2 F22 A16 GD6 Pts16
Top scorer: Els Mansell 7 goals
Last result: Drew 2-2 vs. Beeston.
Clifton have kept themselves in contention for a playoff spot with a solid first half of the season. They are a well organised side who are notoriously difficult to beat, as evidenced in their record of suffering only two losses, to Canterbury and Surbiton. They started the season in good form, winning three of their opening four games. They have also taken points from Leicester, Bowdon, Reading and Surbiton (on the first day of the season) showing they are a match for anyone on their day. Their defence is pretty solid but they have plenty of talent in the ranks to cause teams problems in attack, too. Els Mansell has struck seven times in the league and trails only Nikki Kidd and Alex Danson in the scoring charts and Jo Leigh’s outstanding form has seen her called up to the international programme. It is fair to say Clifton are not out of the play off running by any means. If they are to leapfrog Leicester and Bowdon a lot will ride on their clashes on consecutive weeks with both of those sides who are currently ahead of them. As well as those two crucial games, their fate largely depends on Steve Rixon’s side being able to turn some of their draws (5 so far, the most in the division) into wins.
P11 W4 D1 L6 F24 A22 GD2 Pts13
Top scorer: Sophie Robinson 7 goals
Last result: Drew 2-2 vs. Clifton.
Beeston’s first tilt at the Premier League got off to a dream start as they thumped Sutton Coldfield 7-0 in their opening game. Although they were brought back down to earth by three consecutive defeats after that they have acquitted themselves well in the top flight. They were the first (and so far only) side to inflict defeat on Canterbury. Sophie Robinson has picked up where she left off last season, scoring seven times, whilst Hannah Wraith and Erica Sanders have provided able assistance with four goals each of their own. Beeston have managed the useful knack of beating the teams around or below them, with wins over University of Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield and Olton under their belts. However they will be disappointed in their 3-0 defeat to Sutton in the return fixture and will know that a greater consistency and some points from the teams above them in the league are a must if they are to push on. They resume their campaign with a trip to Reading this weekend before facing Bowdon and Canterbury in the next two weeks thereafter. I would have said playoffs might be just beyond them, but a good run of results and anything is possible.
University of Birmingham
P11 W3 D0 L8 F19 A18 GD1 Pts9
Top scorer: Lily Owsley 3 goals
Last result: Lost 1-2 vs. Canterbury.
As is often the case with University based sides, Birmingham had to cope with a fairly high turnover of players at the start of the season. As a result it is perhaps no surprise that it took them a while to get going, picking up their first points after five games. The thing about Birmingham that any side who has played them will tell you is that they are better than their league position suggests. The Premier League is a very tough competition and Phil Gooderham’s side have lost out by a single goal on no less than six occasions, suggesting that with a bit more experience and a bit more cutting edge they could be higher up the table. They haven’t scored a bucket load of goals but likewise, they don’t concede too many, either. Clifton first up is a tough assignment for them as is Reading the week after but then they will hope they can repeat their 4-0 win over Bowdon – arguably their most complete performance this season to help move them away from the danger zone. Sutton Coldfield’s win over Beeston before Christmas cut UoB’s cushion to just three points, but Gooderham will be confident his side can stay out of the relegation places. They hold their fate very much in their own hands as they face Olton, Beeston and, perhaps decisively, Sutton in their last three games. They will not rest easy until they are safe but Gooderham is not a timid coach and will back his side to do what’s needed.
P11 W2 D0 L9 F17 A33 GD-16 Pts6
Top scorer: Emma McCabe 5 goals
Last result: Lost 3-2 vs. Surbiton.
Despite enduring a nightmare first half of the season, Sutton Coldfield are down, but by no means out. Don Vinson’s side had a catastrophic start with a 7-0 hiding against Beeston on the opening day. It took them until game five to get some points on the board with a 6-1 win over bottom side Olton. It is perhaps their win over Beeston in November however, that could prove to be their most important victory. Had they lost that game, the gap to University of Birmingham would have been six points and they would surely be staring into the abyss. Three points is a much more realistic gap to bridge, however. They would expect to pick up a win from their clash with Olton on 22nd February but they still face some tough opposition with Leicester (this weekend), Canterbury, Reading, Bowdon and Clifton still to play before what could turn out to be a winner-takes-all clash with Birmingham on the last day of the season. Much will depend on the form of Captain Becky Batsford, Emma McCabe and of course, Jane Sixsmith. Can Sutton perform the great escape or will they be off to the playoffs to try and preserve their top flight status?
Olton and West Warwicks
P 11 W 0 D 0 L 11 F 7 A 81 GD -74 Pts 0
Top scorer: Katie Brough 2 goals.
Last result: Lost 1-8 vs. Reading.
A horror story for Olton and West Warwicks so far this season. They have lost every game and some by extremely large margins, including the 12-0 loss to Reading, 12-1 to Surbiton and 9-0 to Canterbury. A squad ravaged by departures, injury and believe it or not, multiple players falling pregnant, they simply haven’t had the numbers or the quality to compete. Some bright spots have been the efforts of young goalkeeper Fran Taylor who has coped bravely when thrown in at the deep end, Amie Hone who has shown terrific determination and tenacity in midfield and Captain Julie Stowe who has defended with all her might. With a six point deficit just to make it to the relegation playoffs and a goals against column rapidly approaching 100 it looks to be a lost cause for Olton. As regular readers will know, I don’t often stick my neck out and make predictions, but Olton getting relegated is sadly, one I would bet on and be confident of being right.
If you missed part one of the Investec Women’s Premier League Review you can read it here.
To keep up to date with all the results, visit the England Hockey Website.