Hightown take pole position for Europe

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In a weekend of play-offs for next season's National League places at the Milton Keynes National Stadium, the controversial Premiership League play-offs final - with a place in the élite European Club Championship for the winners - takes pride of place on Monday.

With most clubs favouring the winners of the Premier League becoming champions and going into Europe, it is fortuitous that, for the second year of the play-offs, the teams finishing first and second at the end of the testing League season have made it to the finals.

In the women's competition Hightown should triumph over Ipswich. Hightown beat the Suffolk club twice in the League and again on penalty strokes after a goalless draw in the play-offs. They have a splendid blend of experience, in the 44-year-old former England captain Linda Carr plus their Great Britain trio of Tina Cullen, Carolyn Reid and Kate Walsh, and youth with several exciting prospects.

Canterbury versus Cannock in the men's final is harder to call. Advantage has gone to the home side in the League, 6-3 at Canterbury and 4-3 at Cannock, while Cannock edged a play-off thriller thanks to a late goal from Ben Sharpe.

With Canterbury finding it hard to score in their last few games they reintroduced the 40-year-old Sean Kerly into their line-up against Guildford in the second of the play-offs. Kerly responded with a couple of vintage snap shots and set up the first goal of David Mathews' hat-trick in their 5-1 victory. It could be the last time to see one of British hockey's all-time greats in a major fixture.