Whitchurch Men’s 1s 2 – Wilmslow Men’s 2s 2
Whitchurch played league leaders Wilmslow this week in a hard-fought match, and were able to come away with a good result against a team used to winning this season. With a couple of regular players away, Andy Magee returned in goal and brought with him a wealth of experience. Wilmslow are flying high in the league this year with only two draws and a loss to spoil their results before this game, so Whitchurch knew they were going to have a tough match on their hands.
The first half started well, with Whitchurch settling early, but Wilmslow were always ready on the break and piled the pressure on. The defence of Alex Fry, Ryan Murtagh and James Partington were called on time and again, and Magee in goal was able to help ensure marking and movement would prevent Wilmslow from getting in an early strike. Movement through the middle was difficult, as the opposition were both fast and skilful, but Dale Seymour had a good strong game on the left, moving through players with ease and Rob Chappell and Ben Fry put in their usual excellent games in the middle and on the right. Building on this allowed the Reds to pressure the Wilmslow defence on the counter-attack, which proved effective several times; Jack Barnes and Ben Kimberley were able to stretch the defence out wide and got a good pass through to the centre of the dee, where Martin Beecher was able to stretch past the defenders and put the ball through the keeper’s legs for the first goal of the game.
Some frustrations began to show and tempers got shorter, and both sides were less than perfect with tackles and the umpires had to calm things down. Wilmslow were able to settle quicker and rebuild their flowing attacks and were able to put together an overload and nick a goal to level the scores, but going into half time at 1-1 was the result of some good work by both teams and the half-time talk was about playing Whitchurch’s game to their strengths.
The second half was played in much better spirit and had some lovely flowing hockey, with Tom Leonard controlling the centre and setting up Barnes, Beecher and Kimberley to go on good runs. The best part of the half had Barnes go on a solo run from left to right across the dee, almost to the by-line, before unleashing a rocket on a tight angle that beat everyone. Wilmslow immediately redoubled their efforts; keen not to lose when the league was so nearly tied up for them, and put everything into their attack. The Reds’ defence was called on time and again, with Magee making a number of excellent saves, and Chappell, Seymour and Fry helping the backs out, but ultimately the pressure told with a goal in the dying minutes levelling things up. A disappointment for Whitchurch, but a fair result for the game and an excellent effort against a very strong team.
Whitchurch ladies 3s 2 Chester ladies 5s 1
Whitchurch encouraged by recent results entertained Chester ladies in a re-arranged fixture. Whitchurch started the stronger of the two teams and used the pace of Jessica Carruthers to cause many problems for the Chester defence. It wasn’t long before Carruthers broke through and slotted past the Chester keeper to give them the lead. Whitchurch continued to pressure winning a number of penalty corners. A ball to captain Kate Goodwin saw her dribble along the baseline and past the Chester keeper for their second.
Whitchurch finished the half with a two goal cushion but well aware that Chester were going to come back at them in the second half. Chester re-arranged during the break and caused Whitchurch far more problems by tackling in numbers to prevent the pacey Whitchurch forwards breaking through.
As Chester continued to pressure they started to catch Whitchurch on the break and despite a number of fine saves by Evie Whatmough in goal Whitchurch didn’t learn and finally Chester pulled back a goal.
The game played out with Chester pushing for an equaliser and Whitchurch defending in numbers but managed to hold out for another valuable three points.
Llandudno Men’s 2s 3 Whitchurch Men’s 2s 0
With the start of half term and a catalogue of injuries, Whitchurch Men’s 2s were struggling to find eleven players for Saturday’s trip to Llandudno. Thankfully Brendan Coburn was persuaded to play his first ever game of hockey, and 13 year-old Jacob Buckeridge agreed to make his debut in senior hockey. But, with half the team made up of juniors in their first season of men’s hockey, this was always likely to be a tough afternoon for Whitchurch.
Llandudno took control of the ball and territory during the early stages of the game without seriously threatening the Whitchurch goal, with the Reds happy to play on the counter attack. Although the 2s struggled to penetrate the Llandudno dee, when they kept their play simple, they were able to relieve pressure and get the ball, and their opponents, deeper into the other half of the pitch. However, as the first half wore on, some of the Whitchurch players struggled to maintain their patience, carrying the ball into trouble and losing possession cheaply. As a result, team mates were being caught up field as the Welsh side won possession and the defence of Brendan Coburn, Richard Leigh, Matt Brooks and Joe Coburn were fighting a valiant, but doomed battle to keep the ball away from the Whitchurch goal.
Inevitably Llandudno opened the scoring from a short corner and, as with many games this season, 1-0 quickly became 2-0, before Whitchurch settled down and started playing better hockey. They began to find openings on the flanks, with Airan Jones and James Page on the right, and Doug and Jacob Buckeridge combining well with Joe Coburn on the left. Although they struggled to threaten the goal, Whitchurch were forcing Llandudno to defend on the edge of their own dee, and managed to force a couple of short corners. But unfortunately for the Reds it was Llandudno who scored again from a brilliant reverse-stick hit into the top corner of the net.
Despite being three goals down at half-time, Whitchurch regrouped in the second half and played much better all round hockey. Joe Faithful had an excellent game up front, and whilst not having any real chances to shoot at goal, his constant pressing of the Llandudno defenders gave them very little time to find passes into midfield. Danny Foulkes took control of the middle of the pitch and expertly guided the inexperienced young (and not-so- young) players through the game.
Llandudno refused to sit back and tried to increase their lead in the second half, but Matt Brooks and Richard Leigh were quite excellent in the centre of the Whitchurch defence. If the Welsh side did make it through to goal, keeper Neil Jones was equal to everything, whether rushing from his line to close down angles or diving to push shots away from goal. And special mention for Brendan who dealt with a high ball in the dee by playing a superb cover drive to the boundary. More Joe Root than Joe’s Dad!
Overall Llandudno were worth their 3-0 win. But this was a competitive game played in good spirits by both sides. Despite the distance, Llandudno has always been an enjoyable away trip for the 2s, irrespective of the result. Whilst Whitchurch lost this game, there were a number of positives to take from the game. When the team passes the ball and shows patience the 2s look a handy side, and the young players all did exceptionally well on Saturday. Joe Faithful, Joe Coburn and Jacob Buckeridge all had excellent games, as did Richard Leigh and Matt Brooks in defence.
And special thanks to Brendan Coburn, who thought he was just driving his son, Joe, to the game, but ended up playing really well for the full 70 minutes in his very first game of hockey.