Match reports 24-10-20

Whitchurch Men’s 1s 0 – Deeside Ramblers XI 2

With the North West Hockey League being heavily affected by Tier 3 lockdowns, very few matches could go ahead as planned this weekend, but Deeside Ramblers came to Whitchurch for a friendly with a squad of players from a spread of their teams – as high as their 2s, as well as teams from the Reds’ own league – so Whitchurch knew they would have a strong battle on their hands.

As has been the case on a number of occasions, Whitchurch seem to play better against better opposition, and this match was a prime example: to a man, everyone stepped up and faced the challenge ahead with confidence and composure, and it worked. For large periods of the game, Whitchurch had the game under control; they passed the ball with some sublime one-touch play out from the back, up the wings and into the Deeside dee. Passes went to their targets, tackles and re-tackles and tackling again to get the ball back meant that they were never under the cosh, despite some excellent play by Deeside. The only thing they lacked was the final touch to get the ball into the net, but they came close on several occasions.

At the back, Paul “Sturge” Leigh had his usual strong game, keeping the ball out despite heavy pressure in the Reds’ dee as Deeside ploughed in in numbers. Danny Foulkes was composed and confident at the centre, spreading the ball out wide, or finding the incisive bullet up the middle if the opportunity presented itself. Sam Conway ran and ran and ran, ensuring there was always a decent option out wide on the right. James Partington got some good tackles in, and a block that took a shot up onto the crossbar. Ross Gill, playing sweeper in front of the defence, controlled that area of the pitch calmly, releasing pass after excellent pass to keep the play going in the right direction.

Jack Barnes and Joel Leese were the bedrock of the midfield, working well off each other, to move the ball in triangles up the pitch, or to carry the ball if there was space, putting great pressure on the Deeside defence. Tom Forster and Fred Egerton rotated well on the left wing, pushing forward and getting crosses in, and Chris Ruscoe had his usual dominant game on the right, playing in both dees – either putting a great pass or shot in at the far end, or racing back to make a critical block in the Reds’ own dee.

Will Gilbert, Sam Budd and Martin Beecher were constantly at the Deeside defence, giving them no time to settle, and Whitchurch had a number of shots either well-saved, or slightly wide of the goal, including an excellent attempt at a deflection shot from Budd, and on another day would have scored many.

Despite the Reds’ constant good marking, quick ball movement, cutting out opposition passes, chasing back when the ball was lost, and a constant team effort, Deeside were able to score two goals. The first was a really well-worked piece of play, driving down the middle in triangles before passing it to the incoming striker at the top of the dee who was able to fire it up into the net. In the second half, a good run into the dee by Finn Leonard for Deeside was passed to the penalty spot, and the shot was scooped over a diving Sturge.

In the end, a fair result, but Whitchurch can take a huge amount from this game. Had they played at this level in the two previous games this season, there’s no way they would have suffered losses. The challenge is to find this performance week-in, week-out and, if they do, the rewards will come.

Whitchurch ladies 1s 5 Macclesfield ladies 2s 0

Whitchurch came up against a 16 strong Macclesfield side this Saturday, but held their own with 12 players.

Centre players Lisa Sullivan, Hebe Dixon and Captain Catherine Winter-Gresty pushed from the off, holding the ball in Macclesfield’s half. Forwards Ellie Windsor and Stephanie Stanton put plenty of pressure on and within ten minutes Whitchurch were awarded a penalty flick that Dixon calmly slotted into the goal.

Macclesfield fought back, but Whitchurch defence Chloe Lloyd and Kezzie Hutchings were hot on their every move. Plenty of chances came for Whitchurch and eventually a shot in from Catherine Winter-Gresty was deflected to score their second by Ellie Windsor.

Whitchurch were keeping possession and passing the ball round well, tiring the fresh Macclesfield legs that were being subbed regularly. Keeper Maddy Sugden made some great saves again when Macclesfield had a couple of lucky breaks, but they couldn’t get on the score sheet. Before half time Sarah Field scored through the keepers legs, making it 3-0 before the second half.

Even though Whitchurch were comfortably in the lead the second half started a bit panicked, but before long they settled back playing their game, Hayleigh Busby picking out Hebe Dixon to score her second.

Whitchurch won several short corners, allowing Sarah Field to make it 5-0.

Well in front and Whitchurch kept possession as much as possible, using the width of Anna Latham and Molly Fry, pushing up length of the pitch. Whitchurch played hard up until the final whistle and were very happy with the result.

Hebe Dixon was awarded players player.

Deeside Ramblers Men’s 6s  Whitchurch 2s Men’s 1

With the coronavirus rules and restrictions playing havoc with the league fixtures, Deeside Ramblers and Whitchurch Men’s 2s had played out an entertaining friendly at SJT the previous weekend. Although the game had finished 1-1, Whitchurch had dominated most of the game, but were thwarted by the excellent Ramblers keeper.

One week on and the two clubs played again, fulfilling the scheduled league fixture. Whilst Deeside were able to bring in some of their more experienced players, Whitchurch once again lost two key players due to enforced self-isolation.

Deeside took control of the match from the first pushback. They retained possession well and moved Whitchurch across the pitch, whilst probing for openings. Despite their control, the home side struggled to get into the Whitchurch dee. Brendan Coburn and Wyn Morris were imperious in the centre of defence, but the midfield were working hard to plug any gaps and harry the Deeside players.

Whitchurch weathered the early storm and managed to work their way into the game. As they got more of the ball, Ethan Gresty, Richard Leigh and Alex Leigh began to put together some neat passing moves, and with good support from Jacob Buckeridge, Dave Brunyard and Joe Faithfull on the wings, Whitchurch started to threaten the home sides dee.

The 2s were especially dangerous on the counterattack. As Deeside continued to dominate territory, Whitchurch were quick to attack when they won the ball, and midway through the first half, Ethan Gresty surged through the centre of the pitch and played an excellent through ball for Airan Jones to race clear of the Deeside defenders and calmly flick past the on-rushing keeper.

With Deeside knocked out of their stride, Whitchurch went close to increasing their lead. Euan Morris had a number of chances that flashed wide, were saved by the Deeside keeper, or scrambled clear by the defenders, but the closest the Reds came to doubling the lead was from an Ethan Gresty shot that came back off the post, following good link up play with Joe Faithfull.

Throughout the half, the home side had concentrated their attacking efforts down their right hand side. Will Snaith and Wyn Morris had continually repelled these attacks, but as the Whitchurch defence was pulled across the pitch, Gareth Teggin and Doug Buckeridge had to be wary of attackers arriving at the back post. Moments before half time the Deeside tactic paid dividends as the ball flashed across the face of the Whitchurch goal and the attacker was able to steer the ball inside the post for the equalising goal.

After the break, Deeside stepped up their intensity and Whitchurch struggled to deal with the increase in physicality. With so many young players the 2s were simply overpowered, and the home side dominated possession and territory for much of the second half. When moves broke down, they were quick to harass the Whitchurch players, who struggled to keep hold of the ball and find their passes.

The away side did manufacture a handful of chances, but nothing of the quality of the first half. Instead the Whitchurch midfield was fully employed helping out the defence. The team defended resolutely, and at times rode their luck. Keeper Neil Jones made some good saves and clearing kicks. But eventually Deeside’s pressure paid dividends.

A goalmouth scramble needed Jones to make several close range stops as defenders and attackers hacked at the ball. As the ball escaped Jones’s grasp, Doug Buckeridge was on hand to clear off the line, however, the umpire decided the ball had crossed the goal line and awarded Deeside the goal and the lead. Whitchurch weren’t happy with the decision and discipline slipped. Words were exchanged which lead to a Whitchurch player taking a two-minute sin bin, and Deeside were quick to capitalise on their man advantage. A series of short corners were won, and Deeside extended their lead when a mis-hit, bouncing shot crept inside the post.

Whitchurch regained their composure and pushed for a consolation goal, but Deeside were happy to contain the away side and preserve their 3-1 lead.

This was another reality check for Whitchurch in their new division. They enjoyed some good spells of play and looked particularly dangerous in the first half. However, as in the Birkenhead game, the sheer physicality of their opponents eventually overwhelmed the young players. Jacob Buckeridge and Will Snaith played well down the left, Ethan Gresty had another excellent game in midfield, and the defence generally played really well.

Subject to changing Covid regulations, the Men’s 2s next game will be at home to Neston Men’s 7s on Saturday 31st October.