PENARTH 2-0 Ashmoor
After the disappointment of defeat against neighbours Cardiff & Met the previous weekend, Penarth’s 1st XI were well aware that their next fixture against early-season table-toppers Ashmoor would be an equally formidable one, but the Bears were determined to rise to the challenge and, in doing so, preserve their remarkable unbeaten run at Stanwell.
There was a feeling that, in their week two loss, Penarth had paid a penalty for not being switched on from the first push back, but there was no repeat complacency this time. Given that their opponents’ oldest player was just 26 years old, it would take all of Penarth’s experience to maintain not only that proud home record, but also reassert themselves as potential promotion candidates.
The match started at a frenetic pace, but the Devonshire visitors showed no signs of fatigue from their long journey and proved adept in snuffling out Penarth’s attacks, with several of Chris Baker’s trademark runs being halted before they could produce tangible results. Ashmoor also showed why they have been frontrunners in the Championship in recent years with a well-drilled and fit team moving the ball all over the pitch in an effort to find openings in the Penarth defence. This week, however, the home side organised itself more efficiently and, carefully marshalled by man-of-the-match Joe Thomas, managed to ride out these forays.
It took until halfway through the first period for the deadlock to be broken, and required a little bit of magic from Ben Croxall put Penath a goal up. After a series of free hits in the attacking half, Croxall drove into the ‘D’ on a short mazy dribble, before turning onto his favourite reverse stick side and unleashing a thunderbolt into the top right-hand corner, Spurred on by the strike, Penarth created several other opportunities before the break, but could not capitalise on them and, despite penalty corners at both ends - and a selection of cards being handed out to both sides - there was to be no change in the score at the interval.
It has become evident that many of the matches in the Championship division will be close and only settled by the odd goal, so it was an extra boost for Penarth when they doubled their advantage early in the second half. As expected, Ashmoor attacked strongly again in the second half but, within two minutes of the restart, it was Penarth who found the target, as a classic dummy and spin from Laith El-Khatib wrong-footed the visiting defender who was tasked with marking him before a fierce strike from just inside the circle gave the Ashmoor goalkeeper no chance.
The visitors woud not to go down without a fight, and Penarth were forced to weather a series of attacks, with goalkeeper Adam Putt determined to keep a clean sheet as he produced a series of excellent saves to steady any nerves. The Bears were also increasingly able to take advantage of Ashmoor’s high defensive press, with Croxall wreaking havoc with his liberal use of the aerial ball as the home side’s defence began to gradually stretch the visitors in midfield. Two of these long throws nearly produced further goals, with Penarth’s attack not making chances count, and it was also somewhat fortunate that indiscipline did not cost the home team dear as, in quick succession, a reckless challenge and an observation about a umpire’s decision punished them with a brace of yellow cards to give the remainder of the team some anxious moments.
To their credit, Ashmoor never ceased to press forward, and the last ten minutes saw the visitors try everything to reduce the deficit. However, stand-out defensive performances from Aaron Fulton-Brown and Tom Haran brought Penarth through to collect a vital three points when, on another day, indiscipline could have been costly to an otherwise mature performance.
As results from across the first three weeks of the league season have demonstrated, it appears that any team in the division could potentially beat any other, and there well be many twists and turns before the title race is decided. The three points secured on Saturday puts Penarth – newly promoted from Conference North remember – at the head of a six-way tie for top spot courtesy of superior goal difference before making the trip west for this week’s away fixture at Swansea University.
Goalscorers: Ben Croxall, Laith El-Khatib
Cardiff University ‘B’ 3-1 PENARTH ‘A’
The 2nd XI, coming off a frustrating loss of their own at home to Whitchurch the previous Saturday, faced a tricky visit to Cardiff University as they attempted to rediscover the form that had produced a fine opening weekend win away at Lansdown.
Their task wasn’t eased by a scheduled 6pm push back that quickly became closer to 6.30pm as games ahead of them ran late, but the Bears were pleased to discover an impressive new set-up at Llys Tal-y-Bont with a relaid pitch, improved dugouts and covered spectator facilities that provided a home to the hardy souls that travelled to watch them in action.
Despite expecting the student side to be typically younger and fitter, Penarth started the better, able to pin the University side back in the opening exchanges as Chris McCarthy and young Dan Monroe-Morris posed questions to the home defence. The pressure eventually told and, having seen a couple of penalty corner chances wasted, a well-worked counter-attacking move broke the students’ resistance as Usman Dhami intercepted the ball in midfield before feeding McCarthy, who drew the remaining defender to allow Richard Baker to sweep home.
The breakthrough should have spurred Penarth to greater efforts but, instead, it was the University who came out stronger from the restart, switching the pressure to the visitors’ end by pushing an extra man into attack. It was all that the central defensive pairing of Lewis Beadle and Scott Fulton-Brown could do to contain the threat and, on the rare occasion that they didn’t deal with the danger, goalkeeper Simon Comfort again proved to be in fine form between the sticks to preserve Penarth’s advantage until late in the half.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the defences were eventually breached, although the equaliser came from a set-piece rather than open play. Having seen Comfort deal with a couple of earlier penalty corners, the students went to the drag flick, firing a dipping ball into the top right corner so that it passed narrowly under the crossbar after initially appearing to be going high.
There could have been a second goal for the University in the few minutes remaining before the break, but again some stalwart defending, notably from Tom Griffiths, helped to break down the chances and the sides went into the break on level terms.
As they had against Whitchurch the previous week, Penarth created early opportunities to seize the advantage at the start of the second half, but Dave Watkins, Andy Strong and James Kidby were all denied and this allowed the students to keep a foothold in the game. As the half wore on, they younger side have the majority of possession and chances, but Penarth looked good for at least a draw as some heroic defensive work kept the scores even until the final ten minutes.
With the Bears’ midfield having to chase the ball for much of the game, the resistance wore thin as the game headed into its final stages and there was a touch of controversy about the strike that eventually sent the verdict the students’ way. A third goal shortly after only served to rub salt into Penarth’s wounds, even if it put the result beyond doubt and conjecture, but the Bears certainly knew that they had been in a fast and physical game for much of the 70 minutes and should not be too downhearted at not getting anything out of it.
Goalscorers: Richard Baker
PENARTH ‘B’ 0-7 Swansea University ‘C’
The Thirds welcomed Swansea University to Stanwell knowing that, having been promoted alongside the students last season, the fixture was always going to be a tough one from first whistle to last – a realisation made all the more stark when the visitors travelled with a squad of 16 players...
As maybe could have been expected, the Swansea side got the best of the initial encounters, scoring early in the first half as they attacked with some flowing hockey, and continued to press the Penarth defence through their direct style of play.
Although the students added to their tally with some well-taken chances, the home side got behind their defence on occasion, creating a few opportunities on goal. Indeed, the Bears had a spell where they pressed intently on Swansea, but were unable to capitalise on territorial advantage and make inroads into the deficit.
Sam Salisbury and Matthew Birch made the best of any service from the midfield, with Graeme Jones and Rhys Meddins pushing high to support the midfield in attack. The game was always going to be feisty but, in adversity, the Bears showed both promise and commitment and, despite the eventual 0-7 scoreline, know that, as a team, they can build on the performance as the league campaign progresses.
PENARTH ‘C’ 3-1 Whitchurch ‘F’
Penarth’s 4th XI made their second home appearance in as many weeks as they hosted Whitchurch ‘F’ in a De Cymru 3 encounter directly after the first team game, and gave a large and appreciative crowd something else to cheer as they deservedly secured a first league win against an older and vastly more experienced side.
Opening brightly, the ‘C-siders’ dominated the early exchanges, but it seemed business as usual when they conceded a goal just nine minutes as an unmarked Whitchurch player fired high in to the roof of the net to give ‘keeper Luke Williams little chance.
Rather than be put off by this early setback, however, the home side continued to play the more attractive hockey, but it was not until five minutes before half-time that the quality was rewarded with an equaliser, with Lewis Ingram on the end of a fine cross from the right by Zayn Zaman following excellent approach work.
Going into the interval with the game locked at 1-1, the young Penarth side were determined to go on and secure the result their excellent hockey warranted, and, 13 minutes into the second period, they finally moved in front as Zaman opened his account with a smart finish following excellent work by Iwan Meddins.
Rather than rest on their laurels, however, the ‘C-siders’ continued to dominate and press for the third goal that would likely kill the game off. With the superb Elys Johnson featuring prominently in a man-of-the-match performance, and supported by the tireless work of Jo Ramage and growing maturity of sibling Tom, it was only excellent goalkeeping by the Whitchurch stopper that kept the rampaging Penarth youngsters out.
The visitors’ resistance was finally broken with ten minutes remaining, however, as veteran Dave Thomas showed a cool head to finish smartly from the left-hand side of the ‘D’, and the remainder of the game played out with the home side dominant but unable to add to the scoreline.
Goalscorers: Lewis Ingram, Zayn Zaman, Dave Thomas
All four Penarth sides will be in GoCrea8 action this weekend, with the 1st XI hoping to carry on their good form against a tricky Swansea University side in the second city. The 2nd XI, meanwhile, will hope to bounce back from consecutive heart-breaking losses but will have to overcome a typically tough Cardiff & Met side at Stanwell (1.45pm start) if they are to register their first points since the opening weekend. The 3rd XI open proceedings at Stanwell (noon start), taking on their neighbours from Whitchurch, while the 4th XI face the toughest test of their season to date with a visit to division leaders Neath at Baglan.
Penarth Hockey Club always welcomes new, old and returning players, umpires, supporters, friends and helpers regardless of age and ability. Training takes place on Wednesdays at Stanwell School, with the juniors on the pitch between 6.15pm and 7.15pm and the seniors between 7.00pm and 8.15pm.
Anyone interested in joining the club at senior or youth level can contact club secretary Dave Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.
Updated 22:34 - 1 Nov 2017 by Craig Llewellyn