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11 months ago By Richard Bromiley

1st XI led the way into 2018 with another emphatic victory, backed up by two wins in as many days for the ever-improving Fourths.

PENARTH 8-0 Cardiff & Met ‘B’

The senior side got the second half of their season underway looking to return to the favour against a Cardiff & Met side that had caused something of a surprise by narrowly beating the Bears 3-2 back in October, with every point looking crucial in a tight battle at the top of the GoCrea8 League Championship division.

The match started evenly, with both teams having chances to take the lead on a Stanwell pitch unaffected by the cold morning temperatures. Penarth, however, looked the more purposeful and eventually broke the deadlock to go 1-0 up after a typically slick team move midway through the opening period. Starting with the back four moving the ball round with purpose and pace, the play moved into the midfield where some neat interchanges released Chris Baker on the overlap. Once he had skilled two defenders, the ball was moved into the Cardiff D, where Ross Biggar finished smartly.

The Bears were unable to capitalise on the breakthrough, however, although the half finished with both teams having chances denied by the opposing goalkeeper to leave the game on a knife edge with a single strike still separating the sides.

Penarth rallied at half-time and some tactical changes quickly paid off, with the home side’s front six pressing Cardiff more aggressively from the restart. The constant pressure led to increasing turnover ball and, from one such steal, the Bears produced a pinpoint pass to find Laith El-Khatib open in the opposing D. With defenders closing in, the veteran forward made no mistake with his first-time finish to make it 2-0, settling any nerves Penarth might have had and allowing them to express themselves and score at will thereafter.

Biggar doubled his tally to make it 3-0 shortly afterwards, having clearly found his scoring touch since being promoted to forward. Again, the goal followed some good interplay by the midfield, allowing El-Khatib to find Dave 'Jasper' Joyce, who drew the ‘keeper before slipping the ball to Bigger for the finish.

By now, the floodgates were being forced wide and two penalty corner goals in quick succession from Ben Croxall soon pushed the score to 5-0. As the game became increasingly feisty, Penarth continued to dominate, adding a further three strikes before the final whistle to significantly enhance their goal difference. All three resulted from great team play, starting from the very back, where Tom Haran, Joe Thomas, Phil Lane, Joe Wells and man-of-the-match Aaron Fulton-Brown moved the ball around the pitch before feeding it into the midfield, where debutant Ollie Burland made an immediate impact. An exchange of passes set Baker free on the overlap before cutting inside his man and unleashing a backhand bullet into the bottom corner to make it 6-0, while number seven was created by Andrew Willemite and Matthew Stollery, who combined to set Croxall up to complete his hat trick. The last word went to Joyce, who finally got himself on the scoresheet with a clinical finish past the hapless Cardiff ‘keeper.

Penarth’s momentum will be put on hold this weekend due to scheduled opponent Ashmoor’s national indoor commitments but, with results elsewhere going their way, the Bears now sit four points clear of third-placed Cheltenham and just a point off Ashmoor themselves, with a game in hand on both sides.

Goalscorers: Ben Croxall (3), Ross Biggar (2), Chris Baker, Laith El-Khatib, David Joyce

Whitchurch ‘B’ 2-0 PENARTH ‘A’

Having ended the first half of the season on a high with the 15-1 thumping of Lansdown, the 2nd XI travelled to Treforest looking to put further ground between themselves and a Whitchurch team that sat alongside them in mid -table of De Cymru and The Marches 2.

The Bears also had revenge on their mind, as they were looking to overturn a sloppy home defeat at the hands of the same opposition at the start of the campaign, but found themselves facing a stronger Whitchurch line-up this time around, and it was the home side that started better. Despite being put under early pressure, however, the Bears produced some fine defending to steady the ship and emerge unscathed, gradually growing into the game and countering effectively against a high Whitchurch press.

Both sides had good chances to break the deadlock before the half was out, with Chris McCarthy firing narrowly wide and Jamie Wheeler being denied twice in quick succession by the Whitchurch stopper. Just as it appeared that the sides would be going into the interval on level terms, however, the deadlock was broken right on the stroke of half-time, Penarth turning the ball over in midfield and Whitchurch countering to great effect to open the scoring.

Having hardly had enough time to restart before the whistle blew for the break, Penarth knew that the game was likely to be decided on similarly small margins, making the next goal critical for both sides. In an even second half, there were again chances at both ends, with Penarth goalkeeper Scott Fulton-Brown mirroring his counterpart’s efforts to deny the Whitchurch forwards and Sam Docherty making a diving clearance off the line to keep the Bears in the game.

However, with the visitors failing to find a way through the home defence, and Whitchurch looking to capitalise on any break, the result seemed destined to go only one way, and it was the Cardiff side who eventually grabbed the decisive goal midway through the half to halt the Bears recent winning streak and interrupt their positive progress up the standings.

Goalscorers: n/a

Bridgend ‘B’ 3-2 PENARTH ‘B’

Penarth’s 3rd XI returned to action away their own mid-table rival, taking on a tricky Bridgend side at Pencoed with De Cymru 2 bragging rights on the line after a comfortable 5-1 win in their first encounter.

Having started with the ball at the first whistle, however, the Bears held possession for a full six seconds before giving the ball away to their opponents, and this remained the pattern for the first ten minutes of what would prove to be a tricky afternoon. Despite Bridgend looking to exploit their pace on the wings, giving debutant Elys Johnson and veteran Graeme Jones all they could handle, Penarth held firm and grew into the game as the half progressed.

Bringing the ball out from the back, the midfield trio of Richard Cousins, Rob Harrison and Scott Munro Morris began to play a tidy short-and-sharp passing game, which led to chances for the visitors as they turned defence into attack using the pace of the pitch. Playmaker Thomas Ricaux also linked up well with the forwards ahead of him and, with Lewis Ingram turning his marker inside-out, Penarth almost took the lead from their first penalty corner, with the Bridgend ‘keeper doing just enough to clear the ball.

Bridgend increasingly countered using the aerial pass, often going from inside their own half to the Penarth 23-yard line, and were rewarded, albeit controversially, when Jones was unable bring the ball down uncontested, allowing a forward to nip in and give goalkeeper Simon Comfort no chance in the melee.

Frustrated they may have been, but Penarth responded positively. Having made made many fine tackles at the heart of defence to keep Bridgend at bay, captain James Davies took it upon himself to try and create the first goal for the Bears, firing a 60-yard bullet pass to find Matthew Birch in the far right corner. Spotting Dave Watkins sprinting through the heart of Bridgend’s midfield, Birch dragged the remaining defender away before playing a one-handed reverse pass for Watkins to run onto... only to see his shot sail inches wide.

Watkins was soon to be rewarded, however, with Davies again the creator. Bravely winning the ball back on the edge of his own D, the skipper played a sharp one-two with fellow defender Simon Wilkinson before embarking on a mazy run, beating players before approaching the opposition’s 23-yard line and finding Watkins off to the left, the centre forward finishing with aplomb over the advancing ‘keeper.

Going into the break on level terms galvanised Penarth and, despite temporarily losing Ricaux to a facial injury, the Bears brought Dan Munro Morris into a more central position, where he immediately made a difference and took the game by the scruff of the neck. With Johnson creating as much as he was defending and Ricaux back on the pitch after treatment, it was the visitors who struck next, courtesy of a little moment of reverse stick magic from Ingram, who somehow bent the ball home from a seemingly impossible by-line position.

Scott Munro Morris almost added to the lead, following a sharp combination between son Dan and Birch, Penarth were unable to kill the game off and, with ten minutes, Bridgend struck back. This time, having seen Comfort produce a remarkable triple save to deny them an equaliser, the home side again benefited from a controversial application of the five-metre rule on an aerial pass to pull level. A draw may have been a fair result, but there was to be further heartbreak for Penarth as, with just minutes remaining, they handed possession to their opponents, leaving Wilkinson and Comfort with too much to do in defence of a point.

Goalscorers: Dave Watkins, Lewis Ingram

PENARTH ‘C’ 3-1 Whitchurch ‘F’

Keen to play the fixture that succumbed to the wintry conditions before Christmas, Penarth’s 4th XI went into the opening weekend of 2018 facing two games in as many days, beginning with the visit of a Whitchurch side sitting just above them in De Cymru 3.

As they had in the two previous encounters with the same opposition this season, the ‘C-siders’ looked to dominate from the start, using the pace of their younger players to break quickly down both flanks. Facing a well-marshalled Whitchurch defence, however, the early exchanges found the home side guilty of trying to force the final pass on too many occasions, but strong running from Joe Ramage and Rhys Meddins, coupled with an improved ability to control and develop play down the right, eventually saw Iwan Meddins open the scoring to send the home side into the interval with a 1-0 lead.

The second period began where the first had left off, with the ‘C-siders’ building on the strong defensive platform provide by Tom Ramage, Richard Bromiley and Mark Robinson to create opportunities for the forward line of Greg Cross, Paul Thomas and Derek Wooding. Further goals from the two veterans eventually saw the home side open up a 3-0 advantage and, despite a late consolation for the visitors, produced a deserved 3-1 win that lifted Penarth above their rivals in the standings.

Goalscorers: Iwan Meddins, Paul Thomas, Derek Wooding

PENARTH ‘C’ 2-1 Gwent ‘B’

Despite being buoyed by their Saturday victory, some tired senior bodies made their way pitchside for the re-arranged encounter with Gwent on Sunday, knowing that the visitors would again provide formidable opposition.

The ‘C-siders’ looked to carry on with the attacking intent they had displayed the previous day, but the early pressure came from Gwent, forcing a re-shuffled defence - featuring Mark Harris in goals and a rare appearance from Morgan Salisbury at centre back- stood firm. Having weathered the storm, Penarth began to move the balance of play to the Gwent half of the pitch and, having established themselves as the more dominant side, strikes from Marc Sawyer and a tanned Tom Parkinson stunned the opposition to produce a two-goal cushion. Gwent, however, were not to be outdone and, disguising a hopeful aerial ball against the low January sun, were able to pull one back before the interval.

Desperate to take at least a share of the spoils, the second half began with Gwent’s title contenders throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the home defence, but the Penarth rearguard remained resolute thanks to some strong tackling from Will Ramage and fine goalkeeping from Harris. The game, which had been played in great spirit by two well-match teams, ended with a deserved 2-1 win for Penarth and capped a fantastic weekend for the 4th XI, which produced some sublime hockey to claim six valuable points and move into a healthy mid-table position.

Goalscorers: Marc Sawyer, Tom Parkinson

With the 1st XI’s scheduled top-of-the-table clash with Ashmoor on hold, only three Penarth sides will be in league action this weekend, with the 2nd XI looking to bounce back to winning ways at home to Cardiff University (1.45pm start) and the Thirds hosting Cardiff Medics as a precursor (noon start). The 4th XI, meanwhile, will be on their travels, heading west to take on a Neath side now just one place above them in the De Cymru 3 table.

Updated 12:42 - 13 Mar 2018 by Richard Bromiley

Where next?

Fixtures: Saturday 20th Jan 2018 Two home fixtures this weekend, while 1st XI’s scheduled top-of-the-table clash with Ashmoor on hold
HOCKEY CLUB CONFIRMS CHRISTMAS PRESENCE The final round of league fixtures before the Christmas break proved bountiful for three of the four Penarth Hockey Club sides in action last weekend

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Sat 15 Dec
Penarth B Bridgend B
League 15:30

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