Whitchurch Men’s 1s 3 – Wrexham Glyndwr Men’s 3s 2
Having achieved their second promotion in two seasons Whitchurch travelled to Wrexham knowing they needed to pick up three points from this game to ensure that next week’s top-of-the-table clash wasn’t critical to winning the league. Wrexham came out fighting with a team that was stronger than their league position suggests. Wrexham started strongly and provided width and depth, with a formation that pressured the Whitchurch defence from the start.
Whether it was a change in personnel, or the bouncier water-based pitch, Whitchurch struggled to find their form and spent large parts of the game chasing the play. When things worked well, passing moves got the ball up the pitch, but breakdowns in play – from poor passes, or strong defence, meant it wasn’t until half way through the first half before Ben Kimberley managed to go one-on-one round the last defender and slot it past the keeper. This spurred Wrexham on, and the pressure paid off as James Partington’s last-man attempted block looped up and landed right in front of the Wrexham striker who fired it past keeper Aaron Swain to finish the half all square.
The second half was more of the same, with both sides very even until the deadlock was broken by Jack Barnes getting the ball in after a goalmouth scramble when Ben Fry’s cross came in from the right wing. Again, this gave Wrexham the fire to come back and they scored from a short corner. At 2-2 with an unlikely win on the cards, Wrexham put everything into the game which including extra enthusiasm into their tackles which lost them a player to a card.
Wrexham continued to look for the win and managed to get a long ball up the centre of the pitch where they had a three-on-two overload and looked likely to score but for Ryan Murtagh’s brilliant last-second stretched tackle took the ball away from the Wrexham strikers, saving the game.
With three minutes on the clock and three important points at stake, Whitchurch got a short corner from a foul in the dee. The injection was slipped to Dale Seymour who picked out Joel Leese who slotted it away to give the Reds the goal.
Whitchurch took the three points and the top slot in the league going into next week’s crunch match at home against Liverpool Sefton 3s.
Alderley Edge ladies 4s 2 Whitchurch ladies 1s 4
Whitchurch played away at Alderley Edge, Whitchurch started strong and kept the ball well despite pressure from a youthful Alderley Edge side.
Sue Read opened the Whitchurch scoring shortly into the game and was soon followed by after an amazing piece of skill from Charlotte Lawder beating the defender and picking out Ellie Windsor for Whitchurch’s second and a two goal lead into the break.
The second half started with strong play down the left hand side from Lucy Ratcliffe, Millie Edwards and Phoebe Jones. Alderley Edge pushed forward and started to create chances but the defence held strong. Whitchurch counterattacked and Emma Harper set up Grace Berry for a well-worked goal.
Alderley continued to fight for ball and managed to pull back a goal. Whitchurch were then awarded a short corner which Emma Harper duely converted. Alderly edge kept up the pace and scored the final goal of the game but Whitchurch secured another well-deserved three points. Lucy Ratcliffe was awarded player of the match.
Whitchurch ladies 2s 2 Sandbach ladies 1s 1
Whitchurch entertained league leaders Sandbach requiring a point to secure promotion and three points to take them back to the top of the league.
Whitchurch were ready for the physical presence of the Sandbach team after their loss earlier in the season and from the start took the game to them. Although Whitchurch had long periods of possession Sandbach tackled hard and frustrated Whitchurch chances to a minimum against the run of play goalkeeper Shola Bailey pulled of a brilliant one on one save to keep Whitchurch in the match.
The half time talk focused on maintaining the Whitchurch strategy and not getting dragged into physical battle and also not to attack to much as a point was enough.
Whitchurch started the second half much the same as the first finished but it was not until midway through the half that Whitchurch were awarded a penalty corner and Lisa Sullivan slammed home the shot.
Sandbach threw everything into the attack and soon got the equalizer. Within minutes Whitchurch hearts sank as the Sandbach forward rounded the Whitchurch keeper and struck only for Mel Reid to calmly stop the shot on the line beat the oncoming attacker and clear the ball.
Whitchurch then got their break as Hebe Dixon drove forward and picked out Ashleigh Heath to turn home the winning goal.
Whitchurch took the three points secured promotion and returned to the top of the table with two games remaining.
Both the ladies 1s and ladies 2s travel away to Wilmslow for their fixtures next week.
Whitchurch Mens 2s 0 Deeside Ramblers Mens 7s 0
In their final home game of the season, Whitchurch 2s played out an entertaining 0-0 draw with Deeside 7s on a chilly, damp afternoon at SJT. Whitchurch welcomed Craig Hockenhull back into midfield, for his first game of 2017, and offered debuts to two academy graduates, Lockie Price and Fred Egerton.
Deeside started the game on the front foot, taking the game to Whitchurch. Despite having more possession and territory in the opening stages, Deeside struggled to make inroads into the Whitchurch dee and as they committed more men forward Whitchurch were able to play on the counter-attack, but were unable to create any chances to shoot on goal.
As the first half wore on, the Whitchurch midfield of Hockenhull, Matt Brookes and Pete Scales gained more control of control in the centre of the pitch and the game became much more even. Both sides were susceptible to counter-attacks and on a few occasions Whitchurch keeper Neil Jones was called on to clear the danger or make good saves when Deeside’s lone forward was found free in the dee.
At the other end of the pitch Lockie Price, Tom Forster and Fred Egerton were combining well with the Whitchurch midfield, but were still struggling to create shots on goal from open play. A few short corners were won and Hockenhull fired narrowly wide from one well worked routine, but the Deeside keeper still hadn’t made a save when Fred Egerton brilliantly swept home a cross into the dee from Pete Scales. Sadly the goal was chalked off as the ball hadn’t travelled five metres before Scales fired into the dee.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with possession and territory evenly split between the two teams. The Whitchurch midfield cut the supply line to the lone Deeside forward and the Deeside attacks came through more sustained hockey in the Whitchurch half of the pitch. Other than one shot which hit the post midway through the half, keeper Jones was well protected by the Whitchurch defence of Matt Brookes, Iain Bones, Danny Foulkes and Richard Leigh.
Whitchurch offered more threat to the Deeside goal in the second half. A well worked short corner routine led to Tom Forster striking the Deeside post and neat skills from Craig Hockenhull saw him dribble into the dee and fire another shot narrowly wide. Airon Jones was unable to get his stick down to turn in a cross at the far post.
This was an entertaining game of hockey between two equally matched sides. Whitchurch were disciplined in both attack and defence and played some good controlled hockey for large parts of the game. All of the players worked hard and supported team mates at both ends of the pitch. But the highlight was undoubtedly the debuts of the two junior players, both of whom played excellent hockey against some experienced and skilled opponents.
Next weekend the 2s travel to Runcorn for their penultimate game of the season.