HOCKEY: Clifton overcoming the odds

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GRAHAM CULLIFORD, one of Clifton Scottish Life's managers, yesterday described the start to the season as "horrendous" - and that from the side with maximum points at the top of the Premier Division.

Clifton's regular pitch at Bristol University sports complex has been unavailable, and on top of that their new coach, David Ward, has still not been able to work with several members of his squad, especially Lucy Newcombe and Denise Marston-Smith, who are banned from training with their club following the Commonwealth Games until 1 November. Ward has only recently been able to work with Lisa Hunter and Isabel Palmer, both England's Under-21 squad members during the summer.

For tomorrow's game with Ipswich, Clifton expect to be at full strength. Ipswich will still be without Sandy Lister who is on tour with the England indoor cricket squad in Australia.

The defending champions, Slough, who just scraped a draw last week at home to Hightown, travel to Edgbaston to play Olton with their recent signing, the Welsh international Lauren Williams (and daughter of JPR Williams, the Welsh rugby legend) in their squad. The Irish international Sarah Kelleher is a doubtful starter.