Another weekend of disruption with the ladies 2s early home game and the ladies 3s away game both falling foul of frozen pitches.
Whitchurch Men’s 1s 6 Chester University Men’s 1s 1
Whitchurch’s last home game before Christmas was at risk of not being played at all, with frost covering the pitch in the morning but the cautious wait paid off as the sun came out for a glorious – if chilly – afternoon. The Reds started brilliantly, continuing their recent fine run of form, and were two-nil up within 5 minutes, with Tom Forster grabbing a brace. The first came from an excellent drive down the right wing by Jack Barnes who crossed it to the top of the dee where Forster took his shot well. The second was a short corner where Nick Cooper worked the ball in well before squaring it to Forster who fired it in.
The intensity settled a little as Whitchurch looked to use their time on the ball carefully, passing around at the back between Alex Fry, Chris Ruscoe and James Partington before building up through the midfield. Rob Chappell and Tom Forster controlled the centre well, with Dale Seymour again strong in the tackle and distributing well. Barnes continued to have a strong game, driving down the right wing almost unchallenged, and he fired a number of powerful shots in from the edge of the dee, with the Chester keeper doing well to block them. Finally such a shot rebounded up into the air off the keeper and Fred Egerton was on hand to do a tennis-smash style volley into the net.
Still the pressure was kept on the Chester, with Seymour driving into the dee looking to offload before just spinning round and placing the ball into the left side of the goal with a lovely reverse stick strike. Cooper then grabbed his first from a pass by Ben Kimberley which he put past the diving keeper. Cooper, Jon Chappell and Craig Hockenhull continued to cause the Chester defence problems, with good runs and a number of close shots.
At 5-0 up at half-time, one could be forgiven for thinking the game was now a foregone conclusion, but Chester came out of the blocks impressively after the break and it was a much more even affair. They put two players up front and started to make better runs, with a number of close chances and Paul “Sturge” Leigh was again impressive in goal, coming out on a number of occasions to block attackers and give the Reds’ defence time to get back and regroup. However, Chester started to make use of their right wing, which they’d hardly used in the first half, and managed to get a free hit just outside the Whitchurch dee which they got fired in and they had three players on hand to put it over a diving Sturge. Sturge was then involved in the game’s injury worry: one of his rushing blocks coincided with Ruscoe coming swiftly across the dee shadowing the attacking player, and Sturge was left feeling the effects of a blow to the head. The game restarted, but Whitchurch were now keen to keep the ball well away from Sturge as he recovered, and looked to find the form from the first half with more emphasis on strong passing than running with the ball. It paid off as a passing move got the ball into the dee and Cooper’s powerful shot was partly stopped, but it still had enough momentum to roll over the line despite the Chester keeper’s diving attempt to stop it.
Given that the second half was 1-1, Whitchurch know they will have a strong challenge in return fixture, but they had their third good win in a row. They remain top of the league with one more game against Oxton Men’s 4s next week before the Christmas break.
Neston ladies 3s 0 Whitchurch ladies 1s 3
Whitchurch ladies 1s travelled to mid-table Neston with a young team, missing several of their regular players. As anticipated, Neston started strongly, but Millie Edwards and Chloe Lloyd created a solid defence, keeping them out. Despite injuries to Catherine Winter-Gresty and Lisa Sullivan, after 20 minutes, Whitchurch started to gain control. This came directly after Neston were awarded a penalty flick, which Maddy Sugden saved comfortably with her left foot. After this, Whitchurch took the initiative, with Anna Latham and Ellie Windsor creating opportunities down the right, which led to Jess Carruthers scoring two goals for Whitchurch by the time the half-time whistle blew.
The second half started out just as fiercely contested as the first. But Whitchurch’s confidence was growing, and they controlled the rest of the game through midfield efforts of Gresty, Molly Fry and Hebe Dixon. With 15 minutes to go, Whitchurch put the game beyond doubt, with Izzy Huxley and Sophie Ward combining to set up Dixon to score with a fine reverse stick strike. As the pitch started to freeze, Whitchurch ran out clear winners, with Sullivan named player of the match.
Bangor University Men’s 1s 9 Whitchurch Men’s 2s 1
A trip to west Wales to face the runaway league leaders was always going to be a tough game for the young Whitchurch Men’s 2s squad, but their battling performance against Bebington, in their previous game, at least suggested that they had the stomach for the challenge.
In the first half they met that challenge head on. The Welsh side were fast and powerful and threatened to run away with the game in the very early stages. The home side took the lead through a short corner, powerfully struck home from the edge of the dee. Further chances were created as the students powered through tackles and neatly dribbled around flailing sticks but a combination of good, last ditch defending by Doug Buckeridge, Brendan Coburn, Gareth Teggin and Will Snaith, some excellent goalkeeping from Neil Jones and a few slices of luck meant that the score remained at 1-0 until half-time.
Whitchurch got to grips with the game the longer first half progressed, and whilst Bangor were always dangerous when they came forward, the Whitchurch midfield started to make inroads toward the home goal. Richard Leigh and Pip Jones were coming to terms with the Bangor midfield and stifling the home sides attacks in the middle of the pitch.
With top scorer, Euan Morris missing through illness, Luke Beddow was pushed further forward and was a constant threat to the home defenders. Joe Coburn, Ethan Gresty and Alex Leigh started to exchange passes closer to the Bangor dee and with Airan Jones, Jacob Buckeridge and Fred Delf-Rowlandson making good runs from wide positions, the Reds had a couple of reasonable chances to get on the scoresheet.
At half-time, there was hope amongst the Whitchurch players that they might be able to sneak something against the odds in this game, but, as last week, their opponents had other ideas.
Throughout the second half Bangor dominated the game. They brought a power and intensity to their play that Whitchurch struggled to live with, but they battled hard and it took until midway through the half before Bangor scored their second goal, from another short corner. This opened the floodgates.
Whitchurch lost their composure and the battling qualities and the determined play prior to the second goal evaporated. Twice they lost possession directly from their own pushbacks and Bangor poured forward onto the Whitchurch backline, overpowering and outnumbering the defence, and adding to their goal tally. The more goals Bangor scored, the more they drove forward looking for goals and the score line just ran away from Whitchurch in the space of 10 disastrous minutes.
The team weren’t helped by a needless green card for a petulant foul, but when the full complement of players returned to the pitch, the Reds dug deep to finish the game with the final goal of the afternoon. Neat interplay down the right between Richard and Alex Leigh sent Joe Coburn forward at pace. He sold the defender an outrageous dummy and fed Luke Beddow, who fired low past the keeper.
The 9-1 score line was a little harsh on Whitchurch. Bangor thoroughly deserved their win, but once again the young Reds forced a very good team to work hard for 50 minutes or so. However, after making things difficult for their opponents for a long time, the subsequent 10-minute collapse, which allowed the score line to tick over at an alarming rate, has happened in each of their three defeats this season.
The team needs to dig deep when they go a couple of goals behind and try to keep the score line respectable. The players need to focus on doing the things that have served them well for two-thirds of the game, even when they go two or three goals down. This will come with experience, but with their final game before the Christmas recess against Oxton at SJT on 7th December, they may need to get to grips with this concept sooner rather than later.