With the ladies without matches over the half term break it was left to the men this weekend.
Whitchurch Men’s 2s 3 Neston Men’s 7s 3
In what has turned out to be the last hockey match for at least a month, the Men’s 2s welcomed Neston 7s to a bright and sunny Whitchurch on Saturday. Once again coronavirus had impacted squad selection, so a number of players were drafted in from the 1s game earlier in the afternoon.
A familiar pattern emerged as the older and more powerful Neston team took control of midfield and forced Whitchurch back towards their own dee. But with the home side working hard, Neston found it difficult to threaten the Whitchurch goal. Brendan Coburn, Danny Foulkes, Joel Leese, Sturge and Gareth Teggin put in a succession of blocks and tackles to keep Neston at bay.
Whitchurch were quick to counterattack when the away side lost possession.
Joe Coburn, Ethan Gresty and Luke Beddow combined well in midfield, but couldn’t quite find striker Will Gilbert, or the willing runs of Jacob and Doug Buckeridge on the wings.
Eventually one of Whitchurch’s attacks was rewarded with a short corner. Doug Buckeridge exchanged passes with Joe Coburn and Buckeridge swept home from close range to open the scoring.
The pattern of play continued for much of the half, with Neston enjoying territory and possession, but Whitchurch posing threat on the counter. Ultimately, and despite the best efforts of the Whitchurch defence and keeper Neil Jones, the pressure from the away side brought an equaliser.
With the game level at half time, Whitchurch were looking to retain more of the ball in the second half, but Neston had other ideas. The away side injected more pace into their passing and Whitchurch struggled to get to grips with the change. Neston deservedly took the lead and looked to press home their advantage, but Neil Jones made several excellent stops to thwart the Wirral side.
Whitchurch eventually settled and with Tom Forster and Jack Barnes adding more power in midfield, they worked their way back into the game. Once again Joe Coburn was instrumental in Whitchurch’s best attacking moments, and as his ball into the dee flicked off a defender’s stick and looped up over the keeper, Luke Beddow raced through to get a vital touch and equalise.
Soon after another defence splitting pass found Fred Egerton, who rounded the Neston keeper and fired home from an acute angle to give Whitchurch the lead. The home side continued to create chances but were unable to add to their advantage.
Buoyed by their lead, Whitchurch began to commit more players forward and Neston were forced to play on the counterattack. With only a few minutes left, a Whitchurch move broke down and as the away side drove forward the Reds defence found themselves outnumbered and Neston took full advantage to equalise.
The 3-3 draw was probably a fair result. Both sides enjoyed good spells during the game, and both sides were grateful for good goalkeeping and poor finishing. At times Whitchurch were a little disjointed, with a number of new players on the pitch, but those players also added some much-needed physical presence.
With the national lockdown imminent, the Men’s 2s next game will hopefully be in early December.
Whitchurch Men’s 1s 2 – Chester Men’s 4/5s 2
With another scheduled game lost to local restrictions, Whitchurch played a friendly against a Chester team made up of a mixture of their two teams in the Division 3 South league. With heavy rain having soaked the pitch in the morning, there were questions about whether the game would go ahead, but the rain stopped, the sun came out and the match was played in glorious sunshine.
It was an evenly matched game, played in good spirit and with some excellent play by both teams. A shortage of senior players gave a number of the younger 2s players an opportunity to step up, with Alex Leigh, Luke Beddow, Ethan Gresty and Will Gilbert joining Joe Coburn and Fred Egerton as the next generation of 1s players, and all represented themselves well, showing pace and skill against an equally youthful opposition.
With some decent end-to-end hockey, the game always felt like it had goals in it, and Whitchurch broke the deadlock with a well-worked short corner, fired in by Danny Foulkes to Jack Barnes at the top of the dee, whose powerful flick went through the keeper. A few minutes later, the scores were level as a Chester drive broke through the Reds’ defence and managed to get the ball past a diving Sturge in goal.
As with last week’s game, Whitchurch settled well to their task, and maintained their efforts through both halves, which is the step up they needed to make from previous seasons where games could tail off in the second half. There was some great use of width, starting at the back with the defenders happy to go across the pitch multiple times before finding their pass out. The midfield were equally happy dropping the ball back to the defence rather than running into trouble and it set the game up well. Some great running down both wings put pressure on the Chester defence, and there was strength in the middle of the pitch at all times.
Chester went 2-1 up with an unlucky deflection after they’d made a good run down the middle of the pitch on the break, but Whitchurch got the scores level again with another short corner routine out to the right which was crossed in before Chris Ruscoe got the last touch.
It was another good game, with Whitchurch showing a promising future as their strong youth structure provides the rewards the coaching staff have been working on. Another home game against Chester 4s is scheduled for next weekend, when Whitchurch will go all out for the win.