Whitchurch Men’s 1s 5 – Neston Men’s 5s 1
Whitchurch returned to winning ways this week with a tough game against Neston 5s, who brought a number of quick, young players with them. Whitchurch, in turn, were able to field a strong team with substitutes, so the scene was set for what turned out to be a well-balanced game despite the final score line.
Whitchurch started well enough, with some good movement and players staying out wide, which stretched the Neston defence, and their keeper was called on a number of times to prevent the Reds from scoring. The defence were able to nullify the Neston attacks well enough, and Paul “Sturge” Leigh in goal was only called on a couple of times in the first half. Whitchurch finally got the ball up to the Neston dee and Jack Barnes got a great cross in to Ben Kimberley who put the ball away. This was followed soon after with Kimberley’s second of the game, with a good strike on the reverse stick beating the keeper for a 2-0 lead.
What came next was 15 minutes of some of the poorest hockey that Whitchurch have played this season: passes were off-target, or not strong enough, giving the ball straight back to Neston; people tried to go through the opposition instead of around; people stopped running into space, and the defenders let their men get away too often, giving Neston far too many chances. Neston lacked only a final touch, or a bit of luck, and the game settled only when Ben Fry moved into the centre of the field and gave the Reds the structure they had been missing. This new base allowed Fry, Dale Seymour, Rob Chappell and Tom Leonard to move the ball around with much more freedom, and Kimberley and Peter Scales were able to get runs going down the wings which stretch the Neston defence and shifted the balance of the game back in Whitchurch’s favour. Jon Chappell was able to create some space and then played a sublime slip-pass to Leonard who got himself onto the score sheet with a strong shot to take the game to the half-time whistle at 3-0.
The half-time talk highlighted the areas that Whitchurch needed to build on, and the parts that were working well, and it gave the team the confidence to play as they know they can in the second half. The difference was marked, with some champagne hockey between Leonard, Alex and Ben Fry, Rob and Jon Chappell and Barnes, moving the ball at speed through the Neston midfield. Tom Forster and Dale Seymour worked the left wing well, and Kimberley and Fry spread the attack out on the right and the pressure told, resulting in a number of short corners from which Leonard was able to put a straight strike past the diving keeper’s left foot.
Neston didn’t let their heads drop and regrouped, determined to get something from the game for all their hard work, and an attack down the left led to a free hit going their way, giving them a chance to get into the Whitchurch dee and claim a short corner. Despite a strong run out from James Partington, and good blocks from Steve Kay and a diving save from Sturge, the ball just managed to cross the line before being kicked back out by the keeper. It was disappointing for the Reds, but a fair reward for the efforts of the Neston attack who had put Whitchurch under constant pressure in the later part of the second half.
Good marking and running for loose balls by Whitchurch added pressure on Neston, which led to a pass back by the Neston midfield missing its intended target and Seymour and Kimberley were left on their own against the Neston keeper, and Seymour was able to blast one past him to make the score line 5-1. Despite a yellow card for a Neston player in the final few minutes, Whitchurch were unable to capitalise and the game ended 5-1. Whitchurch will take confidence from their second-half performance into their game against league leaders Wilmslow next week at home.
Sale ladies 2s 7 Whitchurch ladies 1s 1
Whitchurch ladies 1s travelled away to play second from top, Sale 2s.
Whitchurch knew it was going to be another tough game not having all of their usual team and it certainly was. To start with Sale passed the ball around Whitchurch and scored from most of their short corners. Whitchurch played a very defence game in the first half, only making it into Sale’s dee a couple of times. Millie Edwards and Catherine Reece-Gresty pushed up from time to time trying to give Whitchurch the opportunity to attack but Sale’s defence were very strong.
At half time Whitchurch were 4-0 down. And to top it off the heavens opens just as the second half started.
Whitchurch kept their heads high but couldn’t stop Sale scoring two more. The reds started to attack as Sale began to tire and Charlotte Lawder managed to slip the ball to Hebe Dixon at top dee where she pushed into a Sale player to tap it in. One for Whitchurch! Which brought them back to attacking mode.
Whitchurch had several chances that they failed to convert, but robust play from Sale saw them score another before the whistle.
Whitchurch Ladies 2s 5 Sale Ladies 3s 3
This week Whitchurch played at home against Sale. From the offset Whitchurch were the stronger of the two teams and within a couple of minutes Whitchurch opened the scoring with a shot from the top of dee from Hayleigh Busby.
Sale responded with a quick equaliser but Whitchurch continue to push forward with Emily Vernon driving through the Sale defence and round the keeper. As Sale regrouped Vernon then got her second of the game moments later.
Sale came back fighting and as Whitchurch team went down to 10 players they brought the game back to 3-3. Stephanie Stanton worked tirelessly up front throughout the game and was rewarded as she intercepted a pass and gave Whitchurch the lead at the break.
The second half saw Whitchurch come out with more aggression to increase the score line. And a goalmouth scramble saw Tracy Tolhurst put the ball past the keeper to increase the lead to 5-3. The score line remained the same with a strong defence of Emma Clarke, Mel Reid, Wendy Cooper, Edina Jones and keeper Shola Bailey making sure she kept a clean sheet in the second half. Final pushes from Becky Brookfield, Izzy Huxley, Phoebe Jones and Olivia Edgerton saw the ball moving towards the Sale goal however the final whistle blew.
Neston Men’s 8s 5 Whitchurch Men’s 2s 0
Whitchurch Men’s 2s took a relatively young and inexperienced eleven to the Wirral for a late pushback against Neston Men’s 8s on Saturday.
The Merseyside team immediately took control of the game, pushing Whitchurch back to defend within their own twenty-three. Although Neston had lots of the ball and territory, Whitchurch defended diligently and restricted the home team to half-chances and speculative long-range efforts.
As the half wore on, the 2s became more confident in possession of the ball. Jake Wood and Ryan Murtagh were taking up good positions in midfield and using the width, provided by Wyn & Euan Morris on the right and Doug Buckeridge & Joe Faithful on the left, to good effect. Whitchurch were particularly good at recycling possession and switching the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. However, the Reds struggled to make any real inroads into the Neston dee.
With Whitchurch playing further up the pitch they became susceptible to counter attacks. Neston’s experienced players were able to win the ball on the edge of their own dee and fire long passes to their pacy forward. Whitchurch were caught out a couple of times with the Neston forward beating the last defender for pace. Whitchurch keeper Neil Jones was quick to come off his line and close the angles, forcing mistakes and rushed shots from the Neston player.
Eventually Neston did take advantage of one of these breaks. Whitchurch seemed to have covered the break, but from a narrow angle, just inside the dee, the Neston forward smashed the ball goal-ward and somehow found the net.
With good defending from Matt Brooks, Danny Foulkes, Doug Buckeridge and Wyn Morris, Neston were frustrated and unable to add any more goals before halftime.
Neston changed their approach a little in the second half and made a conscious effort to stop Whitchurch enjoying comfortable possession in the middle of the pitch. Leaving more players higher up the pitch meant Whitchurch had to be careful pushing players too far forward and leaving themselves outnumbered at the back.
As a result, much of the second half was being played in the Whitchurch half and eventually the Neston pressure began to show rewards and the Wirral side opened up a 3-0 lead.
Whitchurch tempers were beginning to get a bit frayed as all of the marginal umpiring decisions seemed to go either for Neston or against Whitchurch. Inevitably the umpire decided that too many decisions were being questioned and (harshly) carded Danny Foulkes. With a sense of injustice the Whitchurch players regrouped, with Ryan Murtagh dropping back into defence and Sam Conway dropping into midfield, and made a determined effort to shut down Neston’s one-man advantage.
When Danny returned to the field of play, the Whitchurch side became more expansive with their play. Suddenly the game became very stretched with the ball going quickly from one end to the other. Whitchurch had chances, with Euan Morris doing well to get a shot at the keeper, Sam Conway going close and Airan Jones sweeping the ball just wide at the end of an excellent passing move. But Neston also had their chances on the counter and added a further 2 goals, one courtesy of a penalty flick, bizarrely awarded despite the ball already crossing the goal line before hitting a Whitchurch foot.
Ultimately Neston were worth their 5-0 win. Although the Reds had issues with some of the umpiring decisions in the second half, these decisions didn’t have any real bearing on the result. Despite the defeat, Whitchurch could take some real positives from the game. In the first half the controlled possession of the ball showed an emerging maturity to their play, and some of the passing moves towards the end of the match showed what this young team can do when they move the ball quickly.
So something to build on next weekend when the 2s travel to Llandudno on Saturday afternoon before facing Chester at SJT on Sunday morning.