Clifton Robinsons ‘A’ 2-4 PENARTH
The 1st XI went into the first of their two weekend fixtures intent on avenging the earlier home defeat to Robinsons that brought an end to their three-year unbeaten run at ‘Fortress Stanwell’, but did so with an enforced line-up change owing to the unavailability of midfield talisman Andrew ‘Wain’ Willemite that saw captain Tom Haran take on a rare foray into midfield.
Despite cold and miserable weather, the Bears started the game at speed, playing with an intensity which Robinsons struggled to cope with. Creating space that allowed allowing Chris Baker to make his trademark infield runs and beat defenders at will, it was only a matter of time before Penarth opened the scoring, and the deadlock was finally broken when Matthew Stollery capitalised on confusion within the Robinsons D to fire home from a tight angle.
Robinsons were determined that it would not be all plain sailing for their visitors, however, and responded quickly, pulling level after a simple ‘route one’ ball caught the Penarth defence pushing too high up the pitch, and left goalkeeper Scott Fulton-Brown with little chance of preventing the equaliser. The goal ensured that the teams would head into the interval all square and with everything to play for as they sought to improve their respective league fortunes.
Having been thrown off their rhythm by Robinsons’ equaliser, Penarth used the break to regain their composure, and began the second half with Ross Biggar and Ben Croxall pulling the strings in the midfield. With control gradually being re-exerted, Croxall found Baker in space on the right, allowing the wide man to beat several defenders before providing a pinpoint pass for an unmarked Ollie Burland to fire home his first goal for the senior team.
Spurred on by the strike, Penarth did not have to wait long for their third of the day, this time with Baker get due reward for his efforts as he again beat several defenders before giving the ‘keeper no chance with a reverse stick bullet to to stretch the Bears’ advantage.
Robinsons, to their credit, continued to push forward to try and salvage something from the game, and made the bold call to remove their goalkeeper when Penarth were reduced to ten after Croxall received a yellow card. The tactic paid off as they eventually broke the Penarth defence from a set piece, scoring after a penalty corner broke down and fell kindly to a waiting forward.
Penarth initially struggled to cope with their opponent’s two-man outfield advantage, and had man-of-the-match Fulton-Brown to thank for maintaining their narrow lead while Croxall remained in the sin-bin, but eventually steadied the ship enough to put the game beyond doubt with five minutes remaining, as David Joyce found space wide on the left before supplying the cross for Stollery to score his second of the game into an empty net.
Goalscorers: Matthew Stollery (2), Ollie Burland, Chris Baker
PENARTH 5-1 Isca ‘A’
With revenge over Robinsons in the book, the Firsts were hoping to make it a six-point weekend on Sunday as Exeter-based Isca made the long trip to Stanwell to fulfil a fixture that fell victim to a frozen pitch before Christmas.
Despite some aching legs and frigid conditions, the Bears were keen to play the same sort of game and carry over their good form from Saturday, and the early exchanges set the tone for the game, with Penarth having the majority of possession, even if they struggled to create many clear scoring opportunities thanks to some well-marshalled defending from the visitors.
The home side’s sustained pressure would eventually tell, however, and a quick break from Baker saw him skin a couple of players down the right flank before an inch-perfect pass found Stollery at the top of the Isca D, and the in-form striker made no mistake with a first-time shot across goal that beat the hapless ‘keeper to his left.
With the breakthrough made, Penarth continued to push forward, employing their revised line-up to full effect as they moved the ball around and kept the Isca players chasing shadows. The control quickly paid off as another foray into the visitors’ D saw Laith Khatib add a second thanks to a well-placed shot that again left the goalkeeper with no chance of making the save.
Despite further chances, the half ended with Penarth enjoying a two-goal cushion, but aware that Isca had shaded the final minutes in terms of both possession and pressure. The visitors, however, had no substitutes to call on and, with a squad on their bench, Penarth’s fresher legs would gradually begin to tell as the second period wore on.
Keen to retake control of the game, Croxall, Baker, Haran and Khatib used their experience to lock down the midfield, while Sam Williamson, Joe Thomas and Marcus Powell dealt with any Isca incursion that might threaten Fulton-Brown’s goal. With possession moving more and more in their favour, the Bears were soon back on the scoreboard, this time with Baker converting from a well-worked penalty corner routine to effectively put the game beyond Isca’s reach at 3-0.
The result was definitely pushed beyond doubt when Croxall made it four - proving a point after being denied advantage by taking a free hit from outside the D back down the same channel before scoring with a reverse stick strike – and Khatib added a fifth with a rocket that left the net billowing and the Isca ‘keeper clutching at air.
Although Penarth were denied a clean sheet by conceding a late goal after Fulton-Brown had picked up an injury, the 5-1 final result saw them achieve their weekend objective of claiming all six points to themselves right back into the hunt for promotion, with games in hand over their nearest pursuers and, potentially, a winner-takes-all clash with current leaders Ashmoor for the Championship crown to come.
Goalscorers: Matthew Stollery, Laith Khatib (2), Chris Baker, Ben Croxall
PENARTH ‘A’ 1-3 Cardiff Medics
The 2nd XI continued their run of fixtures against teams towards the top of De Cymru & The Marches 2 by welcoming Cardiff Medics to Stanwell, knowing that they had already produced one of their best performances of the campaign against the student side.
The first fixture between the teams had been rearranged for a Friday night and, under the early November floodlights, the Bears had dug deep to secure a 2-2 draw with the then league leaders. Although the Medics headed to Penarth having slipped to second in the table, the home side were under no illusions that they were in for a stern test, especially with unavailability reshaping the side that had triumphed against Cardiff University and Cardiff & Met in recent weeks.
The game began, as expected, with the visitors enjoying more of the pressure and possession, and Penarth having to defend vigorously to limit the threat to Simon Comfort’s goal. Lewis Beedle and Jamie Davison’s resistance clearly encouraged the Bears, who gradually began to turn things around and gain an even footing in the game, with captain Andy Strong and the returning Usman Dhami using their experience to feed the ball forward through a revised midfield formation.
With the game more evenly balanced, there were chances at both ends, but the opening goal eventually fell to the students in controversial fashion, as Davison appeared to have his stick hooked as he attempted a clearance, allowing another Medics forward to steal in and force then ball past Comfort. Despite lengthy consultation between the umpires, the goal was allowed to stand and it was an aggrieved Penarth side the took the restart, determined to get themselves back into the game.
The Bears proved up to their task, pressing the Medics defence with greater regularity, despite playing Dave Watkins and James Kidby in a thankless lone striker role. The pressure paid off, however, with the home side winning a penalty corner on the cusp of half-time, and Dhami pouncing to put a rebound beyond the Medics’ ‘keeper to send the sides into the interval on level terms.
Delighted with the way his team had faced up to the first half challenge, skipper Strong urged more of the same after the break and got it, as the defence again soaked up most of the student attacks, and wide midfield options Chris McCarthy and Sam Salisbury gained more room to attack on the break. The visitors were clearly becoming frustrated by their inability to break through the Penarth back line and, as they pressed forward in greater number, opportunities opened up for the home side.
One such chance saw the Bears enjoy a 3-on-2 break fashioned by Davison’s quick clearance, but the move appeared to founder in a goalmouth melee that resulted in both Salisbury and a Medics’ defender on the floor. Again the umpires indulged in lengthy conversation, before Penarth were awarded a penalty flick as the prone defender was adjudged to have prevented a goal-bound ball from crossing the line. Protests from the visitors, however, prompted a second conversation between the officials, resulting in the decision being reversed, this time for the ball having illegally struck Salisbury – despite the Penarth winger appearing to have been the victim of a foul that resulted in him losing his footing.
This time there was no changing the umpires’ minds, and play resumed with eight minutes on the clock. Penarth, however, were clearly distracted by the shenanigans surrounding the phantom flick and quickly conceded as a hopeful ball across the home D was met by an unmarked defender at the far post.
Within minutes, the score had moved to 3-1 in the Medics’ favour, despite their approach play having hinted at a dangerous ball before the move even reached the Penarth area. With no time for a meaningful reply, Penarth were left to reflect on what might have been and the loss of a valuable point in what could become an increasingly congested mid-table battle.
Goalscorers: Usman Dhami
Gwent ‘B’ 2-1 PENARTH ‘C’
After an unbeaten start to 2018, the 4th XI's run came to a frustrating and disappointing end away at Cwmbran Stadium, where they went down 2-1 to a relatively strong Gwent side in a mid-table De Cymru 3 clash.
In a classic game of two halves, Penarth defended well in the first period, containing the more dominant Gwent team until a missed tackle finally allowed the home side to open the scoring with a shot from a narrow angle. For all the considerable Gwent pressure, however, this was their only shot from open play and goalkeeper Calum Grant and the Penarth defence coped well with a series of penalty corners to keep the deficit to a single goal at the interval..
With skipper Zbig Sobiesierski urging the Bears to press forward more in the second period, the visitors emerged from the break to take the game to their hosts. The half belonged very much to Penarth, but they could not break down the Gwent defence, despite forcing string of penalty corners. To make matters worse, a rare attack very much against the run of play culminated in the Gwent centre forward diving in to force the ball home and give the home side an undeserved 2-0 lead.
Penarth finally got the goal their second half display warranted, following an excellent run and strong shot from Richard Cousins, but it was very much a consolation as there was insufficient time remaining to force an equaliser and, perhaps, earn the result their performance warranted.
Regardless of the result, the team - again comprised of the usual mix of young and ‘not so young’ players – improved as the game went on, with debutant Tom Lumsden in particular showing good skills and stickwork down the right.
Goalscorers: Richard Cousins
Three Penarth sides will again be in GoCrea8 League action this weekend, with the 2nd XI taking their turn on a scheduled bye week. The 1st XI will be looking to build on their recent upturn in form as they host fourth-placed Plymouth University at Stanwell (1.45pm start), following the 3rd XI’s mid-table encounter with Swansea University (noon start). The 4th XI, meanwhile, are on their travels once again, this time to take on De Cymru 3 division leaders Swansea City.
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 14:29 - 12 Feb 2018 by Richard Bromiley
Anyone interested in joining the club at senior or youth level can contact club secretary Dave Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.