Whitchurch Men’s 1s 4 Neston Men’s 5s 0
This week’s top-of-the-table clash was a classy affair between two teams who gave it their all in testing conditions, but which left Whitchurch six points clear after a scintillating performance. With Storm Dennis having already flooded the Whitchurch pitch, the game was moved to Ellesmere College in an attempt to prevent the postponement of such an important game. The conditions at the start were blustery but dry, and the game started at a high pace that would be maintained for the full 70 minutes.
Whitchurch fielded a strong team with four substitutes, and that played a good part in their success: players ran hard and then rolled off, which ensured the pace and fitness could keep the game under control. Neston have done extremely well this season, and are the only team to have beaten Whitchurch, and brought an even stronger team this week to try to do the double and potentially go back to the top of the league.
From the start, it was a high quality game, with both sides playing great hockey. The Reds were able to bring their A game, and put together the hockey they’ve played for sections of games previously, but this time for the entire game. There were no lulls in performance; no quiet patches or periods where things didn’t work out. It was a consistent effort with solid results and the rewards were fully deserved: Nick Cooper grabbed the first by dribbling the ball round the keeper and unleashing a shot from an acute angle. He could have had a second with a long aerial ball coming his way into the dee but his first-time shot on the half volley was fortuitously saved by the keeper rushing out. The Neston keeper made a number of great saves during the game to keep the score down, but their defence was under constant pressure.
By the start of the second half, Storm Dennis was unleashing torrents of rain, but nothing was going to dampen Whitchurch’s enthusiasm for the game. The teamwork in the second half was as good as the first, with everyone playing for each other – whether being unselfish in the Neston dee and opting to pass rather than take a shot, or at the back where Chris Ruscoe was again on form making critical last-second saves when everyone else had thought the Neston striker was about to score. Paul “Sturge” Leigh was a rock at the back, again, making blocks and diving saves to record yet another clean sheet for the season. The defence worked as a unit, and the midfield were up and down the pitch all game, attacking and defending in equal measure.
At the other end, the balance shifted as Whitchurch started to stretch away: Dale Seymour drove the ball into the dee and took a shot which was blocked, but the rebound fell to him and he drilled it in. Sam Conway was on the receiving end of a powerful cross and calmly swept it in first time. The final goal was a beauty, with Jack Barnes driving into the dee and holding the ball while the Neston keeper and a defender came out to get it, before slipping it under his arm across to Cooper who now had an empty goal and all the time in the world to slot it away with the last hit of the game.
The atmosphere at full time within the Whitchurch team was as good as any all season. It’s a testament to the Neston players, who put in a real shift and made the game so hard, but the Reds were rightly proud of their effort – a full 70 minutes of hard running, good skill and solid teamwork, and a 4-0 result to put them six points clear at the top of the table, and in clear sight of promotion at the end of the season.
Whitchurch ladies 2s 5 Crewe Vagrants ladies 4s 0
Whitchurch ladies 2s travelled to Ellesmere due to flooding of their home pitch to play Crewe hoping to secure a win despite the torrential weather. In the first half, Whitchurch faced the driving wind and rain and managed to score off a short corner. Catherine Reece-Gresty and captain Emma Clarke provided a solid defence letting no balls past them so Beth Wright had a very easy job as keeper. Nina Hodges, Holly Gilbert and Caitlin Edwards stayed strong, moving the ball around the Crewe players up to the forwards. Hodges, Tracey Tolhurst and Hayleigh Busby triumphantly all scored a goal each.
In the second half, Whitchurch upped the pace pushing through Crewe and making beautiful runs down the pitch. Using Hayleigh’s W press, Whitchurch were able to keep the ball up in the top half and Nicola Forster was able to achieve two well deserved goals. Megan Brunyard, Catherine Reece-Gresty and Caitlin Edwards kept a strong mid-defence and allowed no balls through giving Crewe no opportunity for a goal.
Whitchurch had four players out of position and was missing six of its regular players. This did not show in their game play as they went on to win 5-0.
Man of the match was Amelie Morris
Oxton ladies 2s Whitchurch ladies 1s 6
Despite the awful weather, Whitchurch arrived to play Oxton with determination for the tough game ahead. The first half was difficult for Whitchurch, but they persevered, with Emma Harper and Chloe Lloyd creating an unbreakable defence in the back. Captain Catherine Winter-Gresty and Ellie Windsor worked together on the right, creating numerous opportunities, which eventually led to a break for Whitchurch. Sarah Field utilised this, slotting the ball into the goal, and leaving Whitchurch 1-0 up as the whistle blew for half time.
In the second half, Whitchurch went back out with resilience, battling against the wind. Oxton fought back, putting keeper Maddie Sugden to the test, but she saved all that came to her. Within minutes, Whitchurch had secured themselves a short corner. Harper slipped this to Field, who effortlessly put it into the goal.
Kezzie Hutchings and Sophie Ward played the ball up the pitch making some incredible runs down the wing, which Grace Berry deflected into the goal. Incentivised by this, Whitchurch continued their strong attacks, scoring once again from a short corner, finished by Hebe Dixon. Centre half, Molly Fry, made a break down the middle, crossing in to Jess Carruthers, who scored on the post. Field finished the game with a third and final goal, once more from a short corner, finishing the game at 6-0 to Whitchurch. Players player was awarded to Hebe Dixon.
A week off next Saturday for the 1s but return on the 29th for a home game against Neston.
Neston Men’s 8s 0 Whitchurch Men’s 2s 0
Due to a quirk in the fixture calendar, the Men’s 2s travelled to the Wirral for their final away fixture of the season to face Storm Dennis and a Neston side boasting a formidable home record. Half -term commitments and injuries meant the Reds were without both of their leading scorers and their regular central defenders, so several players stepped up to play in unfamiliar positions.
Despite the re-shuffle, Whitchurch started the game on the front foot. They moved the ball well, keeping the passing short and simple, but working themselves into threatening positions with regularity. Neston were content to sit deep, but leave three, or sometimes four players, in high, wide positions and hit the ball long, bypassing midfield. The Whitchurch defence had to be diligent with their marking. With Doug Buckeridge and Richard Leigh barking out instructions, full-backs Alex Leigh and Will Snaith were careful not to get caught upfield when the Whitchurch attacks broke down.
Chances were hard to come by in the first half. The packed Neston defence made life difficult for Whitchurch to create shooting chances. Will Gilbert picked up the ball at the top of the dee several times but couldn’t find space for his shots and Joe Coburn’s dazzling skills saw him go close. Both Ethan Gresty and Fred Delf-Rowlandson couldn’t quite get on the end of crosses at the back post after making good runs.
Neston were struggling to get into the Whitchurch dee. The Reds defence was cutting off the supply to the high forwards and Neston tried to play through midfield, but the away side worked hard to break up attacks in the middle of the pitch. However, as legs began to tire at the end of the first half, Whitchurch came under some sustained pressure. The home side put together better passing moves through midfield and although the Whitchurch defence was resolute, they were struggling to clear their lines and the ball kept coming back at them. A flurry of short corners was well defended, and keeper Neil Jones, Alex Leigh and Doug Buckeridge did well to clear the ball after a melee in front of the Whitchurch goal.
The stalemate at half-time was a fair reflection of the game, although Whitchurch were more welcoming of the interval than their hosts. At the break the Reds talked about the need to focus on those high forwards and the need to work hard and track back diligently and they started the second half with much more assurance.
Whitchurch dominated much of the second half. Half chances were created with regularity. Joe Faithfull and Jacob Buckeridge both went close; Will Gilbert still couldn’t quite find space for his shots and Joe Coburn was also crowded out by defenders whenever he received the ball in the dee. The Neston keeper made a couple of handy stops and the ball flashed across the goal several times without a player in red being able to get their stick to the ball.
Neston had their moments, but these were few and far between, with the biggest danger coming from a short corner close to the end of the game that was brilliantly blocked by Dave Brunyard at the top of the dee.
This was an entertaining game, well umpired and played in an excellent spirit by both sides. Whitchurch shaded all areas of the game but without Euan Morris and Luke Beddow they lacked a cutting edge up front. Otherwise the team played some excellent hockey, both with and without the ball. Richard Leigh and Doug Buckeridge marshalled the defence well and Will Snaith enjoyed a much better game than the previous weekend at Golborne. The defenders were well supported in their duties by all the players in midfield. The tracking back and diligence to cover the Neston attacks was very pleasing. Joe Coburn ran the game from midfield and yet again Alex Leigh was excellent in defence, whilst also providing a valuable attacking asset on the right-hand side.
Whitchurch Men’s 2s now have four home fixtures to complete the season, starting with Bebington 4s on 22nd February.
Alderley Edge ladies 7’s 4 Whitchurch ladies 3’s 2
Whitchurch Ladies 3’s travelled to Macclesfield just as Storm Denis hit! Without their captain and only had one sub but they shook off the rain and remained upbeat. The team were very grateful to Chris Wilson who stepped in at the last minute to umpire travelling from the ladies 1s game in Oxton. (Thanks Wendy for organising).
Whitchurch chose to play with the wind for the first half and stuck with the tactic of three defensive players along the back, Emma Stubbs, Mel Reid and Jess Kimberley giving us strength and big hits out of the dee to Libby Fox at centre forward, Annie Buckeridge at left inner and Jaz Williams at right inner.
In the first ten minutes, there were several near misses on goal in the Alderley Edge dee by attacking players Louise Whitley, Fox and Kimberley. The opposition were fast on the break and managed to go one goal up despite some good defensive tackling by new comer Poppy Huxley at right half and some excellent running by Annie Leigh at left half. Emily Lister and Annie Buckeridge worked hard on the left hand side of the pitch frustrating Alderley and allowing Kimberley and Williams to make some blistering drives through the middle.
Against the run of play, Alderley Edge were quick to steal a missed Whitchurch pass and scored again making the score 2-0. Undeterred, Whitchurch fought straight back, with Stubbs improving game on game, finding a pass out to Kate Buckeridge at right half who drove the ball through to Williams who slotted home Whitchurch’s first goal.
The 2nd half was a similar affair with impressive tackling from Whitley and Huxley on the right, superb hit outs from Reid, Kimberley and Stubbs to Fox who won several short corners but some excellent goal keeping and defensive play from Alderley Edge denied Whitchurch from levelling the score and Alderley Edge caught Whitchurch on the break again to make the score 3-1.
Whitchurch were very impressive with their ‘never say die’ attitude despite being so wet their shirts were twice their normal weight! Eventually, Kimberley broke free into the dee and won a penalty flick which was brilliantly saved by the 14 year old Alderley keeper. Alderley ever dangerous on the break sneaked in another goal despite some brilliant keeping by Louise Cottrell but Whitchurch were not to be denied and the battling skills of Fox and Whitely were rewarded by Whitley scoring just before the final whistle resulting in the final score of 4-2.
Jess Kimberley was nominated as players player!