With all the other games cancelled due to flooded pitches only the men’s 1s game went head.
Bowdon Men’s 5s 1 Whitchurch Men’s 1s 10
Whitchurch had an excellent away game this week against Bowdon, and it was the perfect tonic to last week’s frustrating home outing. Anything that was poor last week was solid this; anything that was too narrow last week was full-width this; anything that was sloppy last week was tight and focussed. It was some of the best hockey played by Whitchurch for a long time. The movement off the ball was as good as play when with it. Passes made it to their targets across the full width of the pitch. The defence was happy to play the ball around the back, before launching up the wings. The runs into the dee and the crosses to those runs were spot-on. This week, Whitchurch properly implemented captain Danny Foulkes’ pre-game plan, and put into practice the training exercises prepared by the coaching team, and did it well enough to draw praise from spectators who noted how well the squad played together.
The game started evenly enough, with early pressure from Bowdon, who were able to get some good triangles going down the wings. Whitchurch were also putting together some good passing moves and a fine run down the right ended up with right-back Chris Ruscoe bagging his first of the game with some excellent work in the dee. A few minutes later, Bowdon were awarded an unexpected free hit and were able to take it quickly enough to get the ball past the diving Paul “Sturge” Leigh in goal. From there on, though, Whitchurch took control: from strength at the back, with Foulkes flanked by Ruscoe and James Partington to move the ball around before getting out to the midfield, with Alex Fry and Rob Chappell controlling the middle of the pitch, well-supported by Tom Forster on the left and Jack Barnes on the right. Up front, Craig Hockenhull and Nick Cooper were a constant threat in the dee, with Fred Egerton and Ben Kimberley rotating well out wide allowing the Reds to stretch the play in a way they were unable to do last week. Two more goals came before the break, including a short corner that was initially blocked with a high clearing kick by the keeper, which Kimberley brought down with a tennis smash back in before the goal was put away.
The second half was the opening of the flood gates as Whitchurch began to create some borderline-perfect hockey. As Bowdon tired, or lost focus, Whitchurch excelled. Moves started from clearances at sixteens through to the midfield, and across the pitch to the other wing, back into the centre and banged into the goal. Barnes drove an excellent run down the wing and along the byline before slipping it to the penalty spot for a shot. Egerton played an excellent game swapping both at left back and left wing, but was critical in collecting the ball and holding it while players arrived before getting a great pass away, but also scored a good close-range goal of his own. Hockenhull made strong runs that put the Bowdon defence on the back foot; Cooper was a constant threat. The centre of the pitch was a goldmine for pinpoint, crisp passes. The goals started to flow, with end-to-end moves ending in powerful strikes, and included a stroke scored by Ruscoe after a shot on goal hit a Bowdon defender. By the time the final whistle went, Cooper had scored four, Ruscoe three, and Kimberley, Hockenhull and Egerton each got one. Sturge in goal made a great save in the second half, but that was the only time he was really called on. From goalkeeper to centre-forward, the entire team put in a vastly-improved performance. They played for each other, and as a single unit. It was hard to pick a player of the match, but it went to Egerton for his tireless performance. Whitchurch are home next week to Chester Men’s 5s when they hope to build on this good work.