Whitchurch Men’s 1s 2 Oxton Men’s 4s 1
Whitchurch travelled away for their last game before Christmas to play the team currently at the bottom of the league, but knew not to take anything for granted. Oxton were far stronger than their league position would suggest and that, combined with a sluggish start from the Reds, made the game quite even for most of the first half. Whitchurch struggled to put together good hockey, with passes occasionally being wide or weak, and composure just a little off, so were on the back foot. Having said that, they were commanding several parts of the field and put the Oxton defence under a decent amount of pressure. Craig Hockenhull and Nick Cooper moved well in the Oxton dee to keep them from settling, and Fred Egerton rolled on and off with them to keep the intensity high. The Oxton keeper made a number of good saves, and their defensive unit worked well to keep out Whitchurch short corners, so the Reds had to work hard for control.
Oxton’s centre-back was the core strength in their team, good at clearances along the ground and via the aerial route, and it gave them a platform to build on. Their forward play was confident and assured and they moved the ball well, giving Danny Foulkes, Chris Ruscoe and James Partington plenty to do in defence. Whitchurch continued to develop the strength at the back that has given them the best defensive record in the league and worked the ball across the rear third of the pitch time and again to find the best routes out. Joel Leese was back on the left for another strong game, with Dale Seymour and Sam Conway across the middle, and Tom Forster settled well into the sweeper role behind them. Ben Kimberley put in a solid performance moving the ball well through the middle and it was from the central area that the first goal came: Hockenhull collected the ball and ran it to the dee before putting it through to Cooper who put his first-time strike past the Oxton keeper.
The second half was more of the same, but as the game progressed Whitchurch found their rhythm. Once again they put together pass after pass after pass to move the ball from their own dee across the pitch twice before being unlucky with the shot at goal. Reminded of how they can play, they went on to drive the ball forward collecting a number of free hits and short corners along the way as they were clever with the ball and drew fouls well. A short corner routine finally paid off, with Seymour’s powerful strike only being partially blocked by the defender before going over their stick and in.
Oxton came back with renewed vigour, and Paul “Sturge” Leigh was again great in goal, making a number of important blocks and running out to deal with oncoming attackers. In the final minute of the game, a simple stick block by Foulkes was adjudged to have touched his foot instead by the far umpire, and the resulting short corner routine was put away well by Oxton to give them a well-deserved goal.
Whitchurch ground out a win on a day when things didn’t quite click, but the team is strong enough to have a middling day and still pull through. Joel Leese was awarded player of the match for another commanding performance on the left, and the team can be satisfied with a decent performance. They stay top of the league over the Christmas break and can look forward for a good second half of the season in the new year, having already played the top teams away from home.
Bowden ladies 4s 3 Whitchurch ladies 1s 2
Whitchurch played away this week against Bowdon 4s. The top two teams came head to head to play an equally battled game. Bowdon took control for the first few minutes until Whitchurch found their feet and turned the game around, with Sarah Field scoring the first goal from a flick over the keeper. 1-0 up, Bowdon came back fighting to score off a short corner no more than 2 minutes later. Then managed to score another just before half time. Bowdon were 2-1 up with Maddy Sugden saving a plethora of goals.
Whitchurch came out strong in the second half with defence Kezzie Hutchings, Anna Latham and Sophie Ward bringing the ball up to Hebe Dixon who scored a cracking reverse stick goal into the bottom corner. Captain Catherine Winter-Gresty and Lisa Sullivan worked very hard in the centre to filter the ball through and winning a run of short corners. Unfortunately, not being able to convert as Bowdon defence were on the ball. Whitchurch held their own then for the majority of the second half, but unlucky for the defence, a Bowdon striker managed to divert the ball into the goal. Whitchurch played their hearts out, but couldn’t equalise before the final whistle. After an amazing game, Maddy Sugden was awarded a well-deserved player of the match. The final score 3-2 win for Bowdon. As said by the Bowdon coach, this game really was one of the best and hardest of our season so far. Ladies 1s break for Christmas now and are back on the 4th January.
Whitchurch Men’s 2s 3 Oxton Men’s 5s 1
After last weekend’s heavy defeat to the runaway league leaders the 2s welcomed second-placed Oxton 5s to Whitchurch for the final fixture before the Christmas break. Oxton had already inflicted a 5-0 defeat on the young Reds earlier in the season and had won both of last season’s fixtures by big score lines.
The opening exchanges took on a familiar pattern. Oxton’s experience and power threatened to overwhelm the 2s in the first few minutes. They moved the ball well and looked to drive forward but the Whitchurch midfield of Joe Coburn and Richard Leigh were diligently restricting space in the middle of the pitch and the defence of Brendan Coburn, Wyn Morris, Will Snaith and Gareth Teggin mopped up behind the midfield and prevented Oxton getting into any threatening positions.
Whitchurch quickly got themselves into the game and started to play some excellent hockey. The quick one and two-touch hockey that has become the teams trademark this season was soon in evidence. Luke Beddow was linking up well with Richard and Joe in midfield and Joe Faithfull and Jacob Buckeridge were providing excellent passing options in the wide areas. Shooting chances, however, were at a premium for both sides. Defences were solid in the tackle and whilst Oxton were more direct with their attacking play, Whitchurch were patiently probing and recycling possession.
Whitchurch opened the scoring with a superb team goal. Winning the ball in midfield, Richard Leigh fed a neat pass to Joe Coburn who in turn picked out Joe Faithfull’s excellent run from right wing. Joe drove into the dee and squared the ball for Will Gilbert to fire home his first goal in senior hockey. The speed and precision of their play was a joy to behold.
The 2s played out the rest of the first half in the ascendancy. Oxton were always a threat but the Reds defence was quite superb in keeping the ball away from their own dee and Oxton were unable to win any short corners, from which they had punished Whitchurch in the past. The midfield took care of the ball when in possession and every player worked hard to provide a passing option for their teammate.
Whitchurch thoroughly deserved to score the second goal of the half. The ball was fed into the dee from the right and Luke Beddow saw his first shot hacked off the line but followed in to drive the ball into the goal.
Despite being 2-0 up at half-time, Oxton were always going to try and force their way back into the game in the second period and the Whitchurch team-talk focused on being calm and continuing to play the hockey that was serving them so well up to that point.
As expected, Oxton came out hard and fast, but Whitchurch met the challenge head-on. The away side still couldn’t make much progress towards the Whitchurch goal, whilst a change in formation seemed to leave them more susceptible to fast counterattacks by the 2s.
Oxton pulled a goal back 15 minutes into the second half from a penalty flick and for a few moments looked to have seized the initiative. They quickly won a short corner which was brilliantly kicked away by keeper Neil Jones.
But the Whitchurch wobble was brief. They regrouped and Oxton attacks continued to break down before reaching the dee, but as Oxton pushed forward looking for an equaliser they became even more exposed on the counterattack. Will Gilbert went close to another goal. The young Oxton keeper had an exceptional afternoon and made several good saves from Luke Beddow, Alex Leigh and Ethan Gresty. Eventually Whitchurch extended their lead when a good break from Alex Leigh fed Luke Beddow, who slipped the ball under the advancing keeper.
Tempers frayed and Oxton were reduced to 10 men for a succession of green cards. This hampered their efforts to get back into the game, although Whitchurch refused to give them any glimmers of hope and duly saw out the remaining minutes to register a well-deserved 3-1 victory.
This was easily the most impressive result and performance from this young squad of players. Oxton 5s are a very good side and are highly likely to win one of the two promotion spots this season but to a man (and boy) the Whitchurch players worked hard to block up the spaces in the centre of the pitch and prevent Oxton from having any space to play their own hockey. When in possession the 2s were both careful and dynamic with the ball.
Will Gilbert, who turned 14 the previous weekend, had a fantastic game standing in as striker for top-scorer Euan Morris, who missed the game through illness. Luke Beddow continues to impress in midfield and drew deserved plaudits from the Oxton players. His goals have been an asset for the team all season. But it was the old guard who provided the platform for this performance. Richard Leigh and Dave Brunyard prevented Oxton having any space in midfield and ably supported by Brendan Coburn and Wyn Morris at the back, the Wirral side struggled to get into the Whitchurch dee and certainly didn’t fashion any real shooting chances in open play.
A great way to go into the Christmas break!
The Men’s 2s return to action on 11th January 2020 with a trip to North Wales.
Whitchurch ladies 2s 8 Macclesfield ladies 4s 1
Enthusiastically, Whitchurch started the match with their sights set on a win. Quickly; powerfully; fiercely; Whitchurch scored within seconds with Amelie Morris making an amazing sweep on the back post, from a lovely cross from Phoebe Jones. Holly Edwards and Stephanie Stanton worked as inners moving the ball up the pitch with determination. Jones kept battling and with another cross into the Dee, Morris scored again!
Whitchurch defenders Catherine Reese-Gresty and Emma Clarke defended the Whitchurch dee brilliantly and left Megan Nicholson with little to do in goal. The goals kept coming for Whitchurch as Nicola Forster put two more past the Macclesfield goalkeeper. Whitchurch continued to work hard and Chloe Lloyd, Ellie McEvoy and Molly Fry set up numerous fast attacks. As the half time whistle neared Fry managed to score an excellent goal making the score 5-0 at half time.
Reenergised and full of jelly babies, Whitchurch went back onto the pitch looking for more goals. They quickly got back into the game and Fry scored another amazing goal. Lloyd ran the ball up the wing and after a lovely cross into the dee, Stanton scored an impressive goal. However, Macclesfield continued to fight and managed to score a well-deserved goal. Fry carried on setting up numerous attacks and Jones and Holly Gilbert made several strong inter-linking passes. This strong attack resulted in Morris scoring her third goal. Clarke and Reese-Gresty carried on defending amazingly and prevented any further Macclesfield attacks and as the final whistle blew the score was 8-1.