Gritty Bonagrass Grove cling on to dream of elite European competition

FOR the second match in a row, Linda Clement ensured that favourites Bonagrass Grove remained in control of their weekend campaign in the European women’s club championship in Vienna.

She struck twice in the first game on Friday against Wiener Neudorf, taking the game away from the host club for an eventual 6-1 finish. Yesterday, against Swansea, she scored the vital third as Grove took a decisive lead then were forced to hang on for a 3-2 victory. Now the Dundonians are in the strongest possible position to forge their way to the final of this B division tournament.

A win or a draw today in the final pool match against the French champions, Cambrai, would bring automatic promotion for Scotland’s representatives in next year’s elite division.

Grove got off to a racing start when, at their first penalty corner, hard-hitting Olympian Sue Fraser had the presence of mind to loop the ball brilliantly over the advancing goalkeeper.

Fraser was involved in the second goal, too, starting a movement that passed through Clement and Nikki Kleppang before finding Vicky Bunce in position to punch it low into the net.

Clement’s goal started with a superb run up the left wing by Ailsa Robertson, her cross providing the perfect ball for the Grove midfielder to slam home.

But the Welsh captain, Lynda Walker, brought Swansea back into the game with a goal either side of half-time, both from penalty corners.

In the final 20 minutes, though, Grove reasserted their control, but there were no further scoring opportunities. Captain Cheryl Valentine was relieved to come away with the narrow victory that keeps them on course for the final - but they will have to raise their game considerably for today’s meeting with Cambrai.

In the men’s European A division tournament in Antwerp, the perennial German participants, An der Alster, romped home to a not unexpected victory over Western, but the 5-1 margin might well have been greater.

For the first 50 minutes, Western held their own. They finished the first half two goals down - scored from a penalty corner and a penalty stroke - but they came out for the second half in an optimistic mood.

In the 48th minute, they were denied a goal when the umpire deemed the push-out at a penalty corner had not been properly stopped. But they surged straight back into the German circle, and Johnny McMeechan made the final touch count to put Western only one goal behind.

This, however, roused An der Alster to action and, with two goals in two minutes, put the game beyond recall.

Western had already lost to Egara, the Spanish champions, in a battling 5-3 display on Friday, but their modest target of survival among the elite of European men’s hockey will be achieved - even if they lose the final pool match against host club Dragons today - provided they come out on top in tomorrow’s crossover final.

Back in Scotland, in the first leg of the Spektra Systems league first-division relegation play-off, MIM defeated Watsonians by 2-0, thanks to a 14th-minute goal by Kevin Russell and one just before half-time from veteran Stevie Grubb, who dived in to connect with a cross from Jamie Stokoe.

Surbiton gave their slim chances of a medal in the European club championships a boost with a 4-1 victory over Stroitel. However, their chances of progression into the semi-finals look slim.

Surbiton have to match the result of Polish champions Grunwald, but the Surrey side face Dutch club Den Bosch - who have won both their games so far, - while their Polish rivals play Stroitel, who are without a point and have conceded 12 goals.