Ladies hope for end to play-off lottery

HOCKEY: Due to the financial crisis that is threatening the future of the English Hockey Association this could well be the last year of the ridiculous and unwanted Premier Division play-offs.

By Martin White

HOCKEY

DUE to the financial crisis that is threatening the future of the English Hockey Association this could well be the last year of the ridiculous and unwanted Premier Division play-offs.

Disliked by the majority of players, the play-offs have the feeling of a lottery and the sooner entry into European competition is restored to the League and Cup winners the better.

This is the fifth time Ipswich Ladies have been in the play-offs and despite only finishing seventh in the league this is the first time that the team has entered the knock out competition – as cup winners – on the back of a winning streak.

Ipswich will be confident of coming away from Leicester tomorrow with a result having taken four points off them during the season.

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The midlanders are also missing England striker Purdy Miller (knee ligaments) and possibly keeper Caroline Birt (South African training) while the Suffolk coach Chris Mayer will also be an absentee as he is playing for Cannock in their play-off game.

Leicester, however, should not be underestimated and Ipswich coach Sandie Lister said: "Leicester are a young and fit side and even though they may be missing key players they still have the capability to put us under pressure. It will be a close match but winning the cup has given us a real confidence boost and we are now playing our best hockey of the season."

Ipswich's run of six straight wins, including the cup victory proves Lister's point and with the forwards finally finding the net, Ipswich seem to have peaked at the right time.

Although defender Annette Strange is unavailable, Ipswich will otherwise be at full strength.

The winner of this encounter will go on to play either Slough or Olton (away) for a place in the Premiership final at Beeston on Monday, May 6.

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