Beeston secured their place in the top six ahead of the mid-season split with a 4-2 victory at Swansea.
James Sordillo’s side made the trip to South Wales knowing three points would be enough to seal their berth with a game to spare before the winter break and they needed just six minutes to break the deadlock, Cerys Miller opening the scoring.
Charlotte Summers doubled the advantage eight minutes later and Hannah Grieve’s penalty stroke just after the half-hour mark all but settled the outcome.
Beeston skipper Lauren Burrell made it four and though Beth Wood struck twice in three minutes for the hosts, it wasn’t enough to prevent an eighth defeat in nine matches this season.
Beeston’s victory saw them leapfrog Clifton Robinsons into fifth after the Bristol side were beaten 2-1 at home by Wimbledon.
Catherine Macauley put the home side in front after eight minutes and they held their advantage until just before half-time, when Fiona Crackles equalised.
The match remained end-to-end in the second half but it was Wimbledon who found the winner through Sarah Jones’ 58th-minute strike.
The victors sit third but have a bye weekend next time out, which means they could be overhauled by Surbiton – who could even climb into the top three on Sunday if they win at East Grinstead.
With leaders Hampstead & Westminster sitting out this weekend, East Grinstead took the opportunity to close the gap at the top to six points with a 3-2 win at Buckingham.
They did it the hard way, coming from 2-0 down after Jo Pinner and Megan Lewis-Williams put the hosts in the ascendancy inside the opening eight minutes.
Autumn Bowden immediately halved the deficit and after Chloe Brown levelled it up, Robyn Bentley completed the fightback on 55 minutes.
Surbiton kicked off their weekend double header with a 3-1 win at Holcombe, Darcy Bourne, Meg Dowthwaite and Sophie Hamilton finding the net either side of Tania Escaich’s strike.
The only match which didn’t end in victory for the away side came in the East Midlands as Loughborough Students drew 1-1 with University of Birmingham, Kirby Harris equalising for the hosts.
Division 1 North
The final week of the first half of the season saw in-form Stourport rack up their fifth consecutive victory, overcoming Gloucester City 2-0. Bowdon bounced back from losing their unbeaten record last week to win 2-0 at University of Durham and University of Nottingham remain top after a routine 3-0 success at home to Brooklands Poynton. Leicester City won by the same scoreline against Ben Rhydding while Belper and Olton & West Warwickshire both head into the winter break without a win to their name following a 1-1 draw between the strugglers.
Division 1 South
Sevenoaks will start 2022 with a five-point advantage at the summit as they maintained their unbeaten start, comfortably overcoming winless bottom side Trojans 4-1. Second-placed Reading won 2-0 at Wimbledon 2nds while Slough kept their place in the top three after edging past Cambridge City 1-0. The day’s big winners were Canterbury, who thumped Harleston Magpies 6-0, while Isca moved to within a point of Surbiton 2s in fifth after a 2-1 victory in the capital.
Leaders Barnes comprehensively ended Ipswich’s impressive run, scoring six without reply against a side who arrived in West London having won three on the bounce. Nicki Mollison bagged a four-minute hat-trick as London Wayfarers won 4-0 at Chelmsford, a result which saw them move level on points with second-placed Southgate, who were held 1-1 at East London. Hampstead & Westminster 2s eased past Canterbury 2s 4-0 and Horsham saw off Bromley & Beckenham by the odd goal in three.
Sutton Coldfield asserted their authority in the battle of the top two, crushing St Albans 6-0 with the prolific Emma McCabe scoring five. Bedford leapfrogged St Albans into second courtesy of their 3-1 triumph over Oxford University while Beeston 2s came from two goals down to beat Cannock 4-2 in an entertaining contest. Loughborough Students 2s picked up their second win on the spin, thumping bottom side Khalsa Leamington 7-1, and Broxbourne beat University of Birmingham 2s 2-1.
The clash between two high-flying West Yorkshire outfits ended with Wakefield claiming the bragging rights as they came from behind to beat Leeds 2-1, Gwen Veitch netting the winner two minutes from time. Timperley go into Christmas top after taking a point from a 2-2 draw with Fylde but just seven points separate the top nine after second-bottom Alderley Edge picked up an impressive 2-1 win over Doncaster. Neston battled hard to hold University of Durham 2s to a 1-1 draw and the same scoreline saw Pendle Forest and Didsbury Northern share the spoils.
The division is tantalisingly poised going into the winter break, with the top three teams level on 18 points and Team Bath Buccs just a point adrift. Bath closed the gap courtesy of a 2-1 win at Bristol Firebrands, who slipped behind Oxford Hawks and new leaders Witney on goal difference after both won – Witney coming away from Clifton Robinsons with a 3-1 success and Oxford Hawks beating Basingstoke 2-1. Cheltenham won an entertaining mid-table clash 4-3 at Exe and Penarth picked up just their second win of the campaign as they overcame bottom side University of Bristol 4-1.