Whitchurch ladies 2s 4 Sale ladies 3s 0
On Saturday 22nd February Whitchurch Ladies 2s finally played their rearranged match against Sale which was postponed due to a frozen pitch on 18th January. The result of this match would determine if Whitchurch Ladies 2s finished in the top or bottom half of the division.
Whitchurch had a strong team of 15 players, the majority of whom have played together all season with some strong replacements eager to come on the pitch.
The warm up was focused to get the team to concentrate and motivated, emphasising the need to attack the ball and make sure passes were accurate.
First push back was taken by Sale, but they didn’t get far, the attacking line of Amy Fry at centre forward and Amelie Morris and Hayleigh Busby in the inner positions, hit the ball quickly to take it forward towards the Sale dee. And this is where the ball spent most of the first half, either down the left hand-side with lovely passing play between Edina Jones and Tracey Tolhurst playing into the dee or on the right between Phoebe Jones and Nina Hodges using Molly Fry as the lynch pin to change direction of the ball across the pitch.
Frustratingly no matter how much play Whitchurch had in the Sale 22, the Sale keeper and strong defence managed to keep the ball from the goal.
Every 16 the Sale player had was heavily defended by the Whitchurch team, if the ball got past the first row of Amy Fry, Holly Gilbert or Caitlin Edwards it was soon scooped up by the halves or backs including Emily Lister, who was playing her first match for the Ladies 2s and Catherine Reece-Gresty who played a fantastic match of sweeping back.
Even though the first goal alluded the Whitchurch Ladies they did not give up and kept their heads focused defending well when needed and driving forward passing between themselves down the pitch towards the goal.
Sale did manage to break through twice during the first half, however with a strong half and defensive line, it didn’t worry Beth Wright in goal who dealt with the ball cleanly and assertively.
In the dying minutes of the first half Whitchurch were finally rewarded for their pressure with some beautiful passing play down the pitch slipped to the post and pushed into the Sale goal by Molly Fry
Whitchurch went into the halftime break 1-0 up. The team talk by Captain Emma Clarke, bought the teams focus back on track, encouraged the team to relax around the goal mouth and stop trying to force the goal and urged players to stay out of the dee allowing the ball to be reset before being directed at the goal.
As anticipated Sale had also had a strong team talk and came out fighting, however each of their attacks were easily dealt with by the Whitchurch defence, to be able to counter attack on the Sale defence.
It was obvious the Sale team were tiring and with four subs Whitchurch was able to rotate players regularly and keep the pressure on. It didn’t take long for Whitchurch to be rewarded by a fantastic goal from a short corner, push in from Molly Fry to Nicola Forester at the top of the dee, back into Phoebe Jones to the side of the goal with a fantastic shot past the Sale defence.
Whitchurch dominated the last 15 minutes of the match, with a goal from Nicola Forster and another from a short corner past left this time to Hayley Busby who shot to the post and scored.
In the dying minutes of the match Sale were awarded two short corners in quick succession, both of which were dispensed with efficiently by Whitchurch’s Keeper, who kept another clean sheet.
The final score 4-0 to Whitchurch moving them up to joint 4th in the division, player of the match was Nina Hodges.
Whitchurch Ladies 2s have four more matches to the season, three of which are the top teams in the division so they have a very hard month ahead. Next week Whitchurch Ladies 2s are on the road to Neston ladies 4s who are 2nd in the division.
Northop Hall Men’s 2s 2 Whitchurch Men’s 1s 3
Whitchurch travelled away this week full of confidence after last week’s top-of-the-table win, but knowing that complacency could be their downfall. They were up against a strong Northop Hall team who have developed well over the season and who were a threat from the start.
Much of the game was defined by Northop using a long, hard hit out from the back as their main method of attack, and they used it well all game, often finding their left half in space and able to drive forward. They also used their knowledge of the least-bouncy pitch in the league to play the ball around better at the start while Whitchurch got used to the conditions. They were able to put together a number of decent attacks, and were unlucky several times not to score. Paul “Sturge” Leigh had another outstanding game in goal, keeping the Reds in it and denying some great shots from the Northop forwards.
Finally, the pressure told, with Sturge saving twice from the same attacker, before the ball fell kindly and the Northop striker was able to do reverse scoop over the prone keeper. The rest of the half was evenly balanced, and Whitchurch didn’t let their heads drop; they knew the chances would come, and they started to put together some good hockey forcing some great saves from the Northop keeper, who was their standout player.
At half-time, the team talk was about ensuring passes made it to Red sticks on a slow pitch, coming to meet the ball early, and start to make better use of the width of the pitch. The Whitchurch structure was solid, and the use of substitutes was again effect and kept the tempo high. Chris Ruscoe made a good run into the dee and won a short corner, and Jon Chappell’s first strike shot was just too powerful for the keeper, smashing into his pad but continuing on into the goal.
Whitchurch started to put together some more of the full-width play, with the ball moving across the pitch twice as it went from dee to dee, and this width started to stretch the Northop defence. Two goals in five minutes gave the Reds the momentum, as first a free hit on the edge of the dee was taken by Rob Chappell who fired it to Jack Barnes who got a reverse stick screamer into the goal. This was followed shortly after with a short corner routine slipping the ball back to Rob Chappell who’d injected, and the keeper was over-committed and Chappell passed it under him for the Reds’ third.
Northop had to respond and implemented their game plan well, pushing two forwards up to hassle the Reds’ defence, and their continued success with the long ball out worked, as they were able to drive down their left and into the dee where Sturge saved twice, but then the ball clipped Ruscoe’s foot before bouncing off the post. After the initial confusion over whether the ball had gone over the line was cleared, a penalty stroke was awarded, and Sturge was unfortunately beaten despite picking the striker’s shot.
With the score now at 3-2, Northop pushed everyone up the pitch looking for the equaliser. The last five minutes was very tense at the back for Whitchurch with everyone crowding the Reds’ dee looking for a goal or short corner, but the defence held and the final whistle gave Whitchurch their tenth consecutive victory.
Whitchurch Men’s 2s 5 Bebington Men’s 4s 1
The Men’s 2s welcomed Bebington to a windy Whitchurch on Saturday. The game earlier in the season had been a tough, physical game, but the Reds had hung on for a narrow victory. Still without their top two scorers, the side were looking to build on the good play from the previous weekend but knew that they’d need to be more decisive and ruthless in the opposition’s dee.
The opening stages of the game were fairly even. Whitchurch struggled to get their passing game going as they moved forward and Bebington, whilst neat in possession in the middle of the pitch, found an unyielding Whitchurch defence of Alex Leigh, Will Snaith, Wyn Morris and Pip Jones.
As the half progressed, the home side’s passes started to become a bit crisper and more accurate. Alex Leigh, Joe Coburn and Joe Faithfull were linking well down the right-hand side of the pitch, but the Bebington defence held firm and Whitchurch struggled to create any danger in front of the Wirral side’s goal.
Despite dominating the possession and territory it was from a counterattack that Whitchurch opened the scoring. Alex Leigh played an excellent vertical pass to Marcus Conway, who in turn fed Airan Jones to run through on goal and he calmly slid the ball past the on-rushing keeper.
The goal settled Whitchurch and they enjoyed a good spell of possession and territory with Bebington penned in their own twenty-three. The home side got themselves into several good attacking positions, but some poor decision making let them down at the crucial moments. However neat interplay between Joe Coburn and Joe Faithfull saw the ball played across the face of goal where Jacob Buckeridge swept home at the back post to double the home side’s lead going into half-time.
Whitchurch held a three goal lead in the reverse fixture against Bebington, but the Wirral side introduced a physicality that day which knocked the young Whitchurch side out of their stride, so the focus in the second half was for the home team to move the ball swiftly, but carefully, whilst avoiding getting into contact with their opponents.
With Richard Leigh and Doug Buckeridge providing some calm in midfield, the home side moved the ball well and put Bebington under pressure from the start of the second half. A good ball forward sent Will Gilbert clear on goal and as he drew the keeper at the edge of the dee, he unselfishly squared the ball to Ethan Gresty who drove the ball into the open goal.
Although Bebington continued to play some neat hockey through the middle of the pitch, they still struggled to pose a significant threat to the Whitchurch goal. Will Snaith, Alex Leigh, Pip Jones and Wyn Morris continued to intercept passes, make blocks and tackles, and provide a solid base for Whitchurch to move forward.
The home side were making chances and Marcus Conway almost got on the end of a cross at the back post. As Bebington legs tired, Joe Coburn found more space in midfield and his incisive pass put Marcus clear and he slammed the ball past the keeper to make the score 4-0. This was quickly followed by Airan Jones second goal of the game. The Bebington keeper made an excellent double save from Airan and Will Gilbert, but Airan slammed the third effort high into the net.
Bebington were undeterred despite the score line and continued to play their own good hockey. As the Whitchurch subs rolled on into unfamiliar positions, their own play became more ragged and Bebington belatedly threatened the Whitchurch goal. Keeper Neil Jones kicked clear on several occasions, but a brief flurry of short corners just before the end of the game saw Bebington pull one goal back.
The 5-1 win was an excellent result for the team. Still without their leading scorers there was a worry that the team might struggle to score goals for the second week running, but Bebington’s willingness to play their own hockey benefitted Whitchurch. As the Wirral side’s attacks broke down, Whitchurch found space to move the ball and, more importantly, space within the dee to get shots and passes away.
The intensity provided by the midfield and attackers made life difficult for Bebington and their attacks struggled to make much headway, but for the second week running the defence was excellent and provided the platform for all of Whitchurch’s good play going forward.
In their next game, the Men’s 2s entertain the runaway league leaders from Bangor University. Pushback is 1:30pm at SJT.