Hockey: Depleted Surbiton test their resources

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WITH THE top four Premier Division play-off places just about certain, realistically only Guildford has the chance of displacing either Reading, Cannock, Southgate or Canterbury, interest this weekend centres on the top of the First Division.

The battle for the title looks to have narrowed down to a two-horse race. Both the leaders, Surbiton, and Doncaster - one point behind - will be depleted. Surbiton, who make the long trip to Hull, will be without three key players - Craig Fulton, Wayne Bentley and Greg Nicol - who are away on international duty with South Africa.

Nicol, Surbiton's top scorer, who only appeared after Christmas, has notched 17 goals in just six games to shoot them to the top. Also missing is James Webber, who is one of a number of Under-18 players absent because of an England training camp at Bisham Abbey.

Doncaster, away to Firebrands, also have their absentees. In addition to Taran Nijjar at Bisham, they will be without Neil Withington and Nigel Land from their midfield.

"Firebrands are difficult to beat at home and the going will be tough," Doncaster coach Alan Stoves said, "but our destiny will be in our own hands."