Neston Men’s 5s 3 Whitchurch Men’s 1s 2
Whitchurch lost their first game of the season against a strong Neston team this week, dropping them from the top of the table. Some days a team can play badly but still win, and others they can play well enough but just come up against better competition, and this week was the latter: Neston had strength throughout their team, with pace and skill throughout, and played as a team and it was enough for them to nick the win.
Whitchurch started well enough, with good movement around the back – Danny Foulkes was flanked by Chris Ruscoe and James Partington and they moved the ball across the pitch confidently before starting attacks down either wing. Tom Forster on the left and Ben Kimberley on the right provided width, and Dale Seymour and Jack Barnes controlled the centre of the pitch. A new three-up-front formation had Nick Cooper, Jon Chappel and Craig Hockenhull playing higher up and moving the width further forward, and this gave the Reds the edge for the first half.
The first goal was a beauty, and was the kind of goal you practise and practise in the hopes of it working one day: Barnes drove down the right and fired a ball in, but it smacked into a Neston leg; as the advantage was played, Barnes’ second strike fizzed into the dee and Chappell got a lovely glancing touch on it and it flew into the goal. A defender’s nightmare to try to block, given the velocity of the ball, and the Reds deserved to be ahead at that point.
The game then settled, and Neston put together a number of good runs. Paul “Sturge” Leigh was instrumental in keeping the scoresheet clean with some critical blocks and he was able to run out and delay attackers whilst the defence ran back. Fred Egerton, Pip Jones and Airan Jones were used well as substitutes to keep the intensity high and Whitchurch were unlucky not to grab a couple more, with Cooper striking the outside of the post, and the Neston keeper pulling off some great saves.
The second half had the game turn in Neston’s favour: they started leaving two players up front, which gave the Reds more to think about there, and Hockenhull’s constant harrowing of the Neston defence caused them to turn to aerial balls to get out of the back, but these started to have some success and Neston launched attacks down the left from them. They were able to get two quick goals off this form of attack before Whitchurch adapted, and this put the Reds on the back foot.
Whitchurch were able to get a goal back, with some sublime work down the left: Barnes passed to Kimberley who raced down the left side of the pitch before getting into the dee and unleashing a rocket into the top of the net. Despite Sturge making even more diving saves and blocks, good opposition pressure and some poor clearances meant Neston were able to nick another on the break, and they kept that pressure up until the end of the game, with a number of short corners which the Reds did well to deal with.
Ultimately, the stronger team won. Neston came out in the second half with a better game plan, and it worked. Whitchurch played well enough for most of the game, but it wasn’t to be this week. Next weekend they have two home games, catching up on last week’s missed game, so will have to take the lessons from this game and reapply themselves well to get back to the top of the table.
Whitchurch Men’s 2s 5 – 0 Neston Men’s 8s
Whitchurch Men’s 2s were looking to build on the excellent result and performance against Runcorn the previous weekend, but Neston 8s were also going well this season, so the fixture at SJT promised to be tight game.
However, the home side took control from the first whistle and, bar a few moments, they remained in control of the game until the end. The defence of Wyn Morris, Brendan Coburn and Gareth Teggin were strong and composed in dealing with Neston’s attacking threat and this enabled Will Snaith and Doug Buckeridge to push up and support the Whitchurch attacks.
Richard Leigh provided the solid platform in midfield, allowing Luke Beddow, Joe Coburn and Alex Leigh to work close to the Neston dee, providing clever passes and runs to outmanoeuvre the away defence throughout the game.
Will Gilbert, Jacob Buckeridge, Ethan Gresty and Joe Faithfull provided good width on the flanks and were diligent in their defensive duties, whilst Euan Morris was a constant threat to the Neston goal.
Despite controlling the opening exchanges, Whitchurch couldn’t quite manufacture a clear goal scoring chance. After a bizarre short corner that went very badly wrong, the home side got into their groove with a well-worked routine that saw Euan Morris and Joe Coburn exchange passes in the dee and Euan then fire into the bottom corner to open the scoring.
Chances started to come the home side’s way and the Neston keeper made some good saves, but Euan was quick to pounce on a rebound and double the Whitchurch lead by lifting the ball over the prone keeper.
Whitchurch continued to dominate, but tempers started to fray as the away side felt umpiring decisions were going against them. The home side compounded those frustrations when Euan slotted in a third goal to make the score 3-0 at the break.
Neston came out with renewed purpose at the start of the second half and enjoyed a sustained period of possession, but the Whitchurch defence was excellent and prevented any real danger to keeper Neil Jones’ goal.
Progressively Whitchurch wrestled back control and repeatedly advanced on the Neston goal. Chances came and went. Ethan Gresty was twice unfortunate not to turn in at the back post. The Neston keeper made some good saves and his defenders did well to clear some of the ensuing danger. But they couldn’t repel every attack and Whitchurch added another goal through Luke Beddow who followed up well after several shots from a short corner were blocked or saved, and then Ethan Gresty swept home on the reverse stick after being neatly set-up by Jacob Buckeridge.
For a change this season, Whitchurch diligently protected their clean sheet and saw out the 5-0 win without any significant alarms.
This was another excellent performance from the young 2s. They played some top-quality hockey at times during the game. Joe Coburn and Luke Beddow were excellent throughout, and their interplay in tight areas was a joy to behold. Euan Morris continues to be a significant threat up front and is scoring goals for fun at the moment. The wide players are getting better with each game; making the pitch big when the team has the ball; and small when defending. Jacob, Will, Ethan and Joe Faithfull all found themselves in dangerous attacking positions because of their clever running. And once again the defenders and Richard Leigh provided the solid platform enabling the forward players to play high up the pitch and pen the opposition near their own goal.
Next week the Men’s 2s will be looking to continue their good run of form when they travel to the Wirral to take on Bebington 4s.
Knutsford ladies 1s 2 Whitchurch ladies 1s 4
Whitchurch ladies 1s travelled away to play second in division Knutsford 1s. With a strong team and two subs Whitchurch attacked from the start, but Knutsford had a strong keen team which held Whitchurch off for some time before they won a short corner and Hebe Dixon fired the ball for Stephanie Stanton to deflect into the top net.
Knutsford attacked hard down the middle taking Whitchurch off guard and scoring. Mid fielders Lisa Sullivan, Catherine Winter-Gresty and Dixon held tight pushing the ball out wide using the width of Ellie Windsor and Izzy Huxley. With lots of pressure on Knutsford defence eventually allowed Lisa Sullivan to eject into the dee from half way, hitting the post and Huxley collecting and scoring their second.
Knutsford came back hard again and with lots of pressure broke down the Whitchurch defence Chloe Lloyd, Molly Fry and Millie Edwards and equalised.
Just before half time Whitchurch had time to score another, with Ellie Windsor taking on the keeper from a deflection and taking the lead.
Half time talk and re-energised Whitchurch took control of the game with quicker passes and runs from Kezzie Hutching’s and Sophie Ward allowing lots more action in the Knutsford dee. Sarah Field was heavily marked but broke and fought with several defenders and keeper to slip into the goal.
At 4 – 2 the Knutsford players heads had lowered and for the last five minutes Whitchurch passed around them making lots more chances to score with some lovely shots in from the Winter-Gresty, Sullivan and Field. But Knutsford dropped back stopping anymore goals for Whitchurch.
Sarah Field was awarded player.
Whitchurch play two home games next weekend as they catchup on re-arranged games.
Sandbach ladies 2’s 3 Whitchurch ladies 3’s 3
Whitchurch travelled to a new away venue this week to play Sandbach 2’s at South Cheshire College.
It was clear right from the start that the teams were evenly matched with strong attacks from both sides. Whitchurch’s well organised defence of Hermonie Ball, Jan Teggin and Mel Reid managed to prevent Sandbach from entering the Whitchurch dee and provided excellent passes out to Jasmin Williams and Caitlin Edwards on the right wing and Emily Lister on the left, who then put in some brilliant passing to Kate Buckeridge and Emma Stubbs storming down the left wing. Phoebe Jones who covered a huge central area up front, deftly received some excellent passes from centre half Wendy Cooper.
Despite lots of possession, Whitchurch failed to score in the first 10 minutes as Kate B was struggling with the pace of the pitch (it was not running as fast as her!); Stubbs was really unlucky not to score the 2nd goal of her debut season with a fantastic sprawl in the Sandbach dee; Jones had several strikes at goal denied by the excellent Sandbach keeper; and Cooper managed to hit the outside of the left goal post.
After a quick reorganisation of players, Annie Buckeridge stormed onto the pitch at left inner and gave Whitchurch a new lease of life. Sam Parkhurst provided some extra support in the middle and Annie Leigh on the left. This change of tactics led to Kate B managing to push the ball between the keeper’s legs and score her first goal for Whitchurch. Unfortunately, an undeterred Sandbach managed to equalise shortly afterwards leaving the score 1-1 at half time.
The 2nd half was a similar end to end affair with some excellent defending from Sandbach denying Edwards and Williams goals from the right-hand side of the pitch and Jones and Leigh on the left.
The counter attacks from Sandbach were swift and left Whitchurch high up the pitch and despite a valiant attempt to race back and defend from Teggin, Cooper and Ball, Sandbach forced an own goal to put them ahead 2-1. Then a break through run from Kate B from the half way line, through a sandwich of defenders at the dee edge, led to a strike from Jones who found the back board of the Sandbach goal giving Whitchurch the equaliser.
Sandbach kept attacking and despite some excellent leaves and saves from keeper Louise Cotterill, Whitchurch conceded another goal putting Sandbach ahead with 10 minutes left to play. Despite this, Whitchurch refused to give up and attacked back narrowly missing several short corner attempts from Williams and Jones. Captain Cooper drove forwards with two reverse stick shots towards goal and this seemed to spur Whitchurch on leading to a last-minute equaliser by Annie Buckeridge leaving the score 3-3 at full-time. A great game which demonstrated how well this 3rd team has improved since last season.
The ladies 2s game was a walkover as the opposition failed to raise a team.