Match Reports 23rd and 24th February 2019

Whitchurch Men’s 1s 2 – Neston Men’s 5s 4

In their first of two matches this weekend, Whitchurch played a strong Neston team, with both sides looking to improve on the one-all draw earlier in the season. Neston brought a good team with some very able young players backed up with some experienced heads, and it had an immediate impression on the game with aerial balls going over the Reds’ defence and being picked up well. Paul “Sturge” Leigh in goal was called on several times to make some great saves, but Neston went ahead early with a good shot on goal beating the defensive team.

Whitchurch recovered quickly and claimed a short corner at the other end, playing a wide ball all the way across the dee where Ben Kimberley picked it up and fired it in, only for the defender’s attempted stop slowing it to a trickle as it rolled over the line. The game settled a little at this point, as the Reds’ defence started to pick up their markers better, and Airan Jones worked well on the left, and the usual central defence of Danny Foulkes and James Partington was helped by the return on Andy Magee to provide strength at the back. Jack Barnes, Dale Seymour, Alex Fry and Sam Conway worked well in the centre of the pitch, and Marcus Conway, Fred Egerton, Craig Hockenhull and Kimberley rotated well up front and for a while the game was even, but then Neston turned on the style and the speed to get another which Sturge could do nothing about.

Whitchurch were able to get a second, with a short corner leading to a goalmouth scramble which Hockenhull was able to pounce on and flick the ball over the keeper. In the second half, though, it was Neston with the majority of play, and as Whitchurch tired Neston were able to slip their markers with more ease and grab a couple more. They had a number of other shots on goal which they were unlucky not to score from, but Whitchurch were able to do just enough to keep them out. In turn, the Reds were finding it harder to keep control of the ball, and passes were getting more suspect. There was plenty of good play from Whitchurch, but it kept breaking down or the ball would get given back to Neston who would break quickly. Some desperate defending at the end kept out short corners, but at the final whistle the score line of 4-2 reflected the difference in performance between the two teams.

Whitchurch ladies 1s 1 Oxton ladies 2s 4

Whitchurch ladies 1s played a late rearranged game last Saturday against top Oxton 2s. They came out very strong passing around Whitchurch and scored very quickly off a short corner. Whitchurch were taken aback how much Oxton wanted the win and continued to be bullied around the pitch. Mid players Lisa Sullivan worked together with Catherine Winter-Gresty and Hebe Dixon to hold the middle as much as possible but Oxton seemed the stronger and composed team. Whitchurch had a few opportunities in the Oxton dee, Helena Dannenfeldt and Ellie Windsor crossing towards the goal but Whitchurch couldn’t get a touch.

In defence Catherine Reece-Gresty and Chloe Lloyd held off Oxton for a while with Sophie Ward and Helen Mellor dropping back but Oxton shot one into the top corner.

At half time a hard talk to Whitchurch allowed them to come out with more fight and seemed to be controlling the game, having plenty more possession and passing up to forwards Jessica Carruthers and Stephanie Stanton. The more pressure put on Oxton the more mistakes they made, so Whitchurch continued and this paid off as Izzy Huxley crossed the ball to Winter-Gresty who pelted the ball into Oxton dee and Dannenfeldt touched to Stanton to score their first.

Whitchurch heads rose and continued to pass well around Oxton. Having a run of shorts but the Oxton keeper was good. Keeper Gwyn Thomas-Rees made some great saves but as Whitchurch tired, Oxton had a lucky break and scored their 3rd goal of the match.

As time was not on Whitchurch’s side the whistle went to a disappointed team. Sullivan was awarded players player for the first time this season and well deserved! Another loss for the ladies 1s as they played the top teams. With only 3 games left to play, Whitchurch need to pull out all the stops to make the top 4 teams to go up a division.

Another home game for ladies 1s next week against Timperley.

Whitchurch Men’s 1s 5 Keele University Men’s 1s 1

In their second game of the weekend, Whitchurch faced Keele University 1s knowing that the previous match had ended 3-3 after Keele had grabbed two late goals, so had to be conscious of maintaining fitness and concentration throughout the 70 minutes. Given the good physical effort put in the previous day, but also aware of the multiple areas of concern that it had highlighted, the Reds knew they would have a tough job ahead of them, and so it was to be after some early pressure from Keele gave them an early goal with Paul “Sturge” Leigh unable to keep out a sharp strike.

However, rather than let their heads drop or repeat the mistakes from the previous day, Whitchurch settled quickly; the tiredness from Saturday worked in their favour, as they moved the ball well rather than trying to run with it, and communication was far improved too. Some smart movement up the left side of the pitch and a drive into the dee was stopped by a foul which gave the Reds a penalty stroke which was unfortunately very well saved, but the momentum had shifted. A short corner soon after was passed wide to Pip Jones whose strike bobbled past everyone and into the goal, and the forward line of Tom Forster, Craig Hockenhull, Fred Egerton and Ben Kimberley applied constant pressure for the rest of the half.

Going in to half time at 1-1, but with the momentum, meant the half-time talk was about continuing to do the good things well, to move off the ball ready for the pass, and to call for each other, and these had an immediate effect; the defence was well-marshalled by Danny Foulkes and Dale Seymour, and Airan Jones had another good game on the left driving up the pitch and beating the opposition more often than not. Alex Fry had another strong game in the middle, making good runs and critical tackles, and Jack Barnes and Marcus Conway continued to have game-changing impact. James Partington played on both sides of the pitch and was given the task of moving up with the ball to give the central line of Barnes, Fry and Conway the time to push up and make runs, and it was this structure that helped Whitchurch get their second: Partington took a quick free hit just inside the Keele half to Conway who quickly slipped it to Kimberley who was unmarked in the dee and slotted the shot away with confidence.

Another goal followed from some flowing movement up the centre of the pitch before the ball was fired at Pip Jones on the back post who calmly put it past the keeper. This was followed by some excellent and unselfish work by Airan Jones playing down the right as he drove towards the dee but, instead of trying a shot past the approaching keeper, slipped it to his left where Kimberley was again unmarked to pick up his second. The final goal was another piece of confident skill as a short corner went to Barnes at the top of the dee who slipped the ball right, and then right again before it was fired back at Barnes who buried it in the net.

As much as Saturday’s game was frustrating, Sunday’s was impressive; a team playing for each other, doing the basics right and celebrating a deserved win against a good team. Whitchurch are away next week against Bowden Mens 5s.