Winnington Park Men’s 2s 5 Whitchurch Men’s 1s 2
Whitchurch lost this week to a team hunting promotion, and who were better on the day, but they still showed some of the improvements from recent weeks. The game was played in grim conditions, with persistent cold rain making ball control difficult on a pitch that offered spin and bounce, and this may have formed the basis for the Winnington Park gameplan: their play was based in large part around aerial balls. On other days, this could have seemed one-dimensional, but it was done well by players with strong skills, and almost every sixteen clearance was through the air and the conditions made interceptions difficult – but the pressure was immediately on, with the ball having bypassed the Reds’ midfield already.
It would have been yet more effective, had Winnington Park not been their own worst enemies: much of the first half was marred by their poor discipline and arguing with the officials, and that gave Whitchurch opportunities. A foul on the line gave the Reds a penalty stroke, which captain Jack Barnes put away with aplomb, and Will Edwards scored a second by sheer force of will, driving through defenders before putting the ball away. A second stroke was awarded, but the keeper made an excellent save to deny Barnes another.
However, Winnington Park found their discipline enough to score two goals before the break, despite Paul ‘Sturge’ Leighs continued excellence in goal, with short corner routines being particularly effective. Going in a two-all at half time gave Whitchurch hope that a second half would see more of the same, and allow them to take advantage of any further cards, but it wasn’t to be. Winnington came out in the second half with much-improved discipline and put it to good use. Continued aerial balls, especially on the right wing to lift it over James Partington at left back to give them multiple opportunities to get into the dee, and eventually the dam broke with several short corners piling the pressure up, as well as a breakaway goal which Sturge originally stopped well, but the rebound was dinked over his diving block.
A frustrating day for the Reds, despite many good performances throughout the team, but a few small mistakes against a stronger team on the day were punished. A home game next week against top-of-the-table Crewe will provide another good challenge.