PENARTH 5-3 Exeter University ‘B’
After back -to-back games against promotion rivals produced a draw and win against Plymouth University and Cheltenham respectively, Penarth’s 1st XI welcomed Exeter University to Stanwell knowing that, although the students find themselves at the wrong end of the table, they could not take their opponents lightly as they fight for survival in the GoCrea8 Championship.
After an even start, Penarth started to dominate possession and territory and it only looked a matter of time before they would take the lead. The visitors had other ideas, however, and, in a rare attacking foray, one of their forwards chased what appeared to be a lost cause and, with a hopefully swing on the base line, managed to somehow find a team-mate with a chest-high cross that was converted into an open net to give Exeter a surprise lead.
Penarth, although slightly stunned by the miraculous turn of events, were undeterred and the game soon returned to its previous pattern, paving the way for parity to be restored. Pressure on the Exeter end led to a series of penalty corners and, when Laith El-Khatib initial shot was was well saved, Chris Baker pounced on the loose ball to sweep home over the sprawling ‘keeper.
With half-time fast approaching, the Bears maintained their relentless pressure, eventually winning another penalty corner, where a typically slick routine found Baker unmarked to sweep home from close range and knock the wind out of Exeter's sails. With their opponents reeling, Penarth picked the pace from the restart, looking to put the game to bed as early as possible. As pressure again led to penalty corners, it was clear that the students had failed to their lesson and Penarth were able to work the same routine to give Baker one of his simplest hat-tricks to date.
A fourth goal quickly followed, with Ollie Burland scrambling the last touch from a Ben Croxall long corner that caused panic in the Exeter area, but, with their survival hopes hanging by a thread, the university side continued to fight, making Penarth work hard for their points. To keep the Bears on their toes, the students capitalised on a series of penalty corners to fire a drag flick into the top corner for 4-2, but Penarth were not to be denied and quickly restored their three-goal cushion with one of the more unlikely combinations to feature in a Bears’ scoring move.
This time, Baker turned provider, picking the ball up in the centre circle before finding Tom Haran in acres of space down the right having who had crept up from centre back. The captain used pace to beat his man and drive to the byline before looking up to see none other than centre back partner Joe Thomas arriving on the penalty spot, gift-wrapping an early birthday present as he laid the ball back for Thomas' first - and likely only - goal of the season.
The game had now become an end-to-end affair, and this continued right up to the last whistle with Exeter pulling a late consolation goal by rifling home another penalty corner to make the final score 5-3 to Penarth. While it was the result Penarth wanted to keep the pressure on likely title rival Ashmoor ahead of their head-to-head encounter next weekend, it was not the performance desired by the Bears after the previous week’s highly-disciplined showing at Cheltenham. Where they had stuck to the game plan in the Cotswolds, Penarth allowed this game to turn into ‘festival hockey’ making life more difficult than it needed to be against relegation strugglers, and more attention to detail will be required if they are not to slip up in the pursuit of the two wins needed from four remaining games to guarantee promotion to the GoCrea8 Premiership.
Goalscorers: Chris Baker (3), Ollie Burland, Joe Thomas
Aberystwyth University 5-4 PENARTH ‘A’
Having beaten table-topping Swansea University the previous week, Penarth’s 2nd XI travelled to one of the teams at the opposite end of the division looking to continue the recent good form that had lifted them into fifth spot in the De Cymru & The Marches 2 standings. However, they would do so with an unfamiliar line-up as unavailability and injuries forced the call up of several players from lower elevens, with Joe and Tom Ramage stepping up from the Fourths and recently-returned 3rd XI goalkeeper Calum Grant being pressed into his first appearance for the higher team.
Penarth started well and had a flurry of early chances, with captain Andy Strong twice going close from penalty corners, and it was from a similar set-piece that the Bears finally broke the deadlock, with Thomas Ricaux’s quick counter attack winning the corner which was converted by Sam Docherty to make it 1-0.
Aberystwyth, however, proved a very different prospect from the team Penarth had comfortably beaten in the return fixture and hit back quickly, taking a quick long corner and firing the ball home from the top of the D. Not content with drawing level, the students struck for a second time to take the lead soon after, again with an impressive finish from the head of the D sending the ball into the top corner.
Far from being deterred, Penarth hit back midway through the half, with Sam Chick firing a ball into the Aber D for Richard Baker to deflect superbly past the hapless university ‘keeper. But, in an end-to-end game, that wasn’t to be the end of the first period scoring, as Aberystwyth regained the ascendancy by firing a drag flick into the top corner - and then added a fourth on the stroke of half-time, again finding the top corner to give Grant no chance.
Keen to stem the flow, Penarth changed formation at the interval, and quickly pulled a goal back, with Ricaux again winning a penalty corner after Strong’s aerial beat the high press being adopted by the students. This time, Chick took his opportunity from the set-piece, slapping home to make it 4-3. Penarth then had chances to level the scores, but both Chick and Ricaux failed to capitalise on good chances, and Aber made them pay by grabbing a fifth with another impressive finish.
Penarth pushed forward in number as they looked for a way back into the game but, as frustrations grew, saw their threat weakened as several players were sin-binned for dissent amid some controversial umpiring. As a result, both sides continued to create chances, with Penarth relying on some fantastic tackling from Docherty and Jamie Davison and a few fine saves from Grant to keep them in the game before eventually pulling a goal back late on as Docherty again fired home from a penalty corner.
The Bears pressed to the very end, with Joe Ramage and Tom Parkinson attacking well down the wings to create chances, but were unable to grab the late equaliser that would have prevented a disappointing defeat, leaving them in fifth spot and tied on points with this week’s visitors from Gwent.
Goalscorers: Sam Docherty (2), Richard Baker, Sam Chick
PENARTH ‘B’ 5-2 Swansea University ‘C’
The 3rd XI faced the toughest weekend of all Penarth sides, with two games in as many days, including a Sunday rematch with a Swansea University side that had been leading 5-1 when heavy rain forced the abandonment of the game at Stanwell two weeks ago.
This time around, there wasn't a drop of rain to be seen but, with temperatures barely in plus figures, there was a distinctly Arctic feel to a game that had bigger-than-expected implications for the Bears’ season. The conditions did not appear to affect the home side, however, and Penarth began well, moving the ball to all areas of the pitch at will. With Tom Parkinson creating plenty of width on the right wing, captain James Davies was able to start pinging 50-yard balls up the pitch, searching out Sam Salisbury and Dave Watkins around the opposition 23. The near-constant pressure almost immediately yielded a series of penalty corners, with the students before Salisbury eventually opened the scoring with a well-placed shot from the top of the D.
Although opening the scoring early in the abandoned fixture did not work out well for the Bears, this time around there was a definite air of confidence arising from Salisbury’s strike, and the home continued to pile on the pressure, with wing backs Rob Harrison and Morgan Salisbury getting plenty of ball and finding team-mates down the flanks to turn defence into attack. Swansea, however, were not going to make it easy for their hosts and, despite not being the same force as encountered by the Bears two weeks previously, enjoyed their own share of possession, eventually capitalising on a string of penalty corners by bundling the ball across the line to level the scores.
Penarth, however, struck back almost immediately, shrugging off the exit of Davies - who limped off to be replaced by Will Ramage – and returning the action to the students’ end of the pitch. Richard Cousins began to find the space to make runs from deep inside his own half and, after finding a Swansea foot in the D, won a penalty corner that Craig Llewellyn converted with a dipping shot that left the Swansea goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
With Lewis Ingram growing into the game and tormenting his opposite number on the left flank, Penarth continued to control the game, the youngster eventually linking up with the energetic Thomas Ricaux to set up Dave Watkins. Despite having plenty left to do in the D, the veteran shrugged off a crowd of defenders before finding the bottom corner to give Penarth a 3-1 half-time lead they could scarcely have dreamed of.
Expecting the youthful Swansea team to come out all guns blazing in the second period, the Bears knew they had to keep their shape but, having weathered a brief initial storm, it was one of their own youngsters who would be next to have a say, with Zayn Zaman winning yet another penalty corner by drawing a foul challenge with some impressive stickwork. With Penarth running through a repertoire of set-piece options, this time it was Ricaux who reacted fastest to a rebound from the ‘keeper’s pads to flick the ball over the stricken netminder and make it 4-1, effectively putting the result beyond doubt.
The students, despite clearly not being on their game, continued to keep the Bears defence honest and, on the rare occasion they did break through the rearguard, brought the best from Grant. Throwing numbers forward, the visitors could have closed the gap when a goal was disallowed following a speculative ball into the D, but finally found a chink in Penarth’s armour to make it 4-2 with ten minutes remaining in the period. If that caused any jitters in the Penarth side, however, the home side did not show it and again returned play to the students’ end, with the impressive Salisbury chasing down a loose ball before skipping past three defenders and drawing a foul that set up one final penalty corner. This time, despite not getting the best contact, Llewellyn dispatched the ball into the far corner to complete the scoring.
Although the university team could consider themselves unlucky to have gone down having led comfortably in the initial fixture, Penarth’s performance moved them ahead of the students in the standings and sets up an intriguing run-in, with a previously unrealised promotion to De Cymru 1 now in their own hands over the final three weeks of the season.
Goalscorers: Craig Llewellyn (2), Sam Salisbury, Dave Watkins, Thomas Ricaux
Llanishen & Caerphilly ‘A’ 1-5 PENARTH ‘B’
The 3rd XI’s weekend had begun with a fixture against cellar-dwellers Llanishen & Caerphilly and, while the final result might have looked impressive, the performance was anything but.
Perhaps dragged down to their opponents’ level, the Bears were unable to keep possession for long periods, and struggled to take control of a game they should, on form, have dominated. It wasn’t until midway through the opening half that any daylight was put between the teams, with Marc Sawyer tapping home from close range to put Penarth ahead. The Bears should then have pulled away, but continued to play well below their usual level, and relied on a penalty corner to increase their advantage with Craig Llewellyn firing home between the ‘keeper’s pads for 2-0.
A third goal followed before the break, and was something of a rarity as Dave Watkins found the back of the net from the head of the D rather than his usual close sniping range, and Penarth seemed to relax following the restart, producing more coherent hockey as they spread the ball around and used the youth of Lewis Ingram and Zayn Zaman to complement the veteran heads as they pinned Llanishen in their own end.
The game was pushed firmly beyond the home side’s reach when captain James Davies added his own ‘tale of the unexpected’ with goal number four, but any thoughts of a clean sheet ended with an equally rare Llanishen attack ended with a fortunate deflection that helped take the ball past otherwise untroubled Penarth ‘keeper Mark Harris.
Determined not to let that be the last impression from a largely unforgettable game, the Bears re-established their four-goal cushion shortly before the final whistle as Sawyer again bundled the ball home from close range, but the performance left a lot to be desired and cannot be repeated if Penarth are to achieve promotion at season’s end.
Goalscorers: Marc Sawyer (2), Craig Llewellyn, Dave Watkins, James Davies
PENARTH ‘C’ 1-6 Neath ‘A’
With the elevation of several key players to higher teams, the average age of the 4th XI was increased considerably for the visit of Neath, and the fact that the opposition arrived with only ten players did little to help matter, as early optimism ultimately proved false as the ‘C-siders’ suffered one of their heaviest defeats of the season to the side immediately above them in the De Cymru 3 table.
Uncharacteristically, the home side started sluggishly, with injuries to several senior players compounding the issues already caused by the revised line-up. Neath, by contrast, were incisive and clinical in everything they did, establishing a near unassailable 5-0 half-time lead.
With the ten men of Neath tiring and, not unsurprisingly, taking their foot 'off the gas' in the second period, Penarth were able to dominate the half, forcing a succession of penalty corners but failing to convert any into goals. With time rapidly running out, Dave Thomas was able to turn the clocks back and convert via a deft deflection that gave the Neath ‘keeper little chance, but any hope of a comeback the ‘C-siders’ may have had was cruelly extinguished when, in a rare foray into the Penarth half, Neath were able to immediately re-establish their five-goal cushion.
As Penarth continued to press, penalty corner after penalty corner went unconverted, a sobering fact given that, had the home side converted just a third of these, a 6-6 draw would not have been out of the question.
Goalscorers: David Thomas
All four Penarth sides are in action this weekend, with the 1st XI heading across the border to take on City of Bath in a late morning Championship encounter (11.30am start). The Thirds also have an early start, facing Bridgend at Stanwell (10.15am start), before the 2nd XI close out the day’s proceedings at the same venue, facing mid-table rivals Gwent (3.30pm start). The Fourths, having enjoyed a rare home game last weekend, are back on their travels for a final, feisty, showdown with Bridgend in Pencoed (3pm start).
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.
Updated 12:42 - 27 Feb 2018 by Richard Bromiley
Anyone interested in joining the club at senior or youth level can contact club secretary Dave Stevens (email@example.com) for further information.