There was barely anything to separate the teams in the Vitality Women’s Premier Division this weekend as all five games on Saturday ended with just one goal between the sides.
Loughborough Students took a giant step forward in their quest for an all-important top-six spot by recording a battling 2-1 victory over Swansea.
Maddie Goodman was the hero for the Students as she scored twice in three minutes during the second quarter to put her side on top.
Bethan Collier’s 42nd-minute strike pulled one back for Swansea but Loughborough held on to keep the Welsh side winless.
Loughborough’s victory was all the more decisive in the race to be the correct side of the post-Christmas split given that two of their main rivals for sixth place both suffered 1-0 defeats.
University of Birmingham travelled to the West Country and Carmen Ansley’s 62nd-minute goal from a penalty corner was enough to see Clifton Robinsons take all three points.
The concession of a late goal to lose 1-0 was also the fate that befell Beeston, who matched table-toppers Hampstead & Westminster for large swathes of their game before Melanie Wilkinson hammered home the decisive goal with seven minutes left.
It means the side co-coached by Sarah Kelleher and Kate Richardson-Walsh stay perfect at the top of the table.
Two of the chasing pack behind them squared off and East Grinstead edged past Wimbledon 2-1.
The Dons took a 27th-minute lead when Lucy Holder fired in from a penalty corner before East Grinstead turned the tables through Sophie Bray and Autumn Bowden goals either side of half-time.
Wimbledon still had a chance to equalise but failed to convert a penalty stroke on 57 minutes as they slipped to defeat.
And in the Vitality Women’s Premier Division’s other Saturday game, Holcombe beat fellow strugglers Buckingham 2-1.
Jo Pinner put Bucks into a second-half lead but two goals in four minutes from Candice Manuel saw Holcombe celebrating a first win of the campaign.
Sunday’s lone game wasn’t quite as tight, with Wimbledon impressively beating Loughborough Students 8-0 in each team’s second game of the weekend – Sarah Jones’ hat-trick the highlight for the Dons.
Division One North
University of Nottingham were on cloud nine after thrashing out-of-form Olton & West Warwicks 9-1 to keep up the pressure at the top of Division One North. Leaders Bowdon Hightown were made to work hard to maintain their perfect record but did so with a 1-0 win over Gloucester City that preserves their two-point advantage over university side, while third-place University of Durham also held serve by downing Ben Rhydding 3-0. Stourport complete the top four and they impressively beat Brooklands Poynton 4-2 away from home, while Belper’s search for a first victory goes on after Leicester City edged them 1-0.
Division One South
Susie Rowe ended a memorable week in perfect style as she scored the only goal for Sevenoaks in a 1-0 victory over Harleston Magpies that keeps them top of Division One South. The multi-sport star announced her retirement from club and international cricket this week after a successful 18-year career but shows no signs of slowing down with stick in hand, rather than bat. There was further good news for Sevenoaks as their nearest challengers, Reading, lost for the first time this season – going down 1-0 to local rivals Slough, who are now second in the table. In another derby, nothing could separate Wimbledon 2s and Surbiton 2s as they drew 0-0, while Canterbury beat Trojans 2-0 and Isca edged Cambridge City 1-0 in a low-scoring day of action.
The top two met in the Conference East and Barnes emerged comfortable 3-0 winners over London Wayfarers to take control of the league. Southgate jumped to second with a dominant 3-0 triumph of their own away to Horsham, while Ipswich also netted three times as they overcame Bromley & Beckenham 3-2. The evening game saw Hampstead & Westminster 2s sneak past East London 1-0, as Chelmsford notched just their second win of the campaign by hammering fellow strugglers Canterbury 2s 4-1.
Coming off the back of last weekend’s 8-0 victory, Sutton Coldfield again had no trouble finding the net as they went to Oxford University and emerged 4-2 winners to maintain their position atop the Conference Midlands. University of Birmingham 2s were on the receiving end of that drubbing a week ago and they lost again, albeit in a much closer contest as Beeston 2s triumphed 3-2. St Albans stayed five points behind Sutton Coldfield by comfortably beating Broxbourne 4-1, Bedford downed Loughborough Students 2s 3-1 and Cannock impressed with a big away win over Khalsa Leamington, 4-0.
Timperley’s patchy recent form continued in the Conference North as they squandered a 2-0 lead against Doncaster to draw 2-2. Having won their first four games of the season, Timperley have now lost two and drawn one of their last three to be usurped atop the table by Wakefield. It’s only on goal difference but Wakefield’s narrow 1-0 win at Pendle Forest sent them to the summit, while Leeds are also closing in after beating Neston 2-0. Fylde had a chance to go top, only to slip up 2-1 at home to University of Durham 2s, and Alderley Edge notched a second victory of the season by squeaking past Didsbury Northern 1-0.
Bristol Firebrands enjoyed a perfect Saturday as they beat city rivals University of Bristol 2-0 and then results elsewhere saw them go top of the Conference West. Firebrands were a point behind Witney and Oxford Hawks heading into the weekend but both Oxfordshire clubs slipped to draws – Hawks 1-1 with Cheltenham and Witney 2-2 at home to Exe. Elsewhere, Clifton Robinsons 2s’ wait for a first win of the season goes on after they were bested 2-1 by Team Bath Buccs and nothing could separate Penarth and Basingstoke (1-1)