Swansea University ‘B’ 2-7 PENARTH ‘A’
Penarth travelled to Swansea knowing a win against the university could see them promoted if third-placed Bridgend failed to get three points of their own but, having drawn 4-4 with the students in the home fixture, the Bears also knew it would be a difficult encounter against a free-scoring and recently improved student side.
Penarth started well and had the university pinned in their own half during the opening exchanges, but failing to convert several good chances ensured that the game remained scoreless until Swansea’s resolve was broken midway through the half. David Tipping, making a cameo appearance during a holiday back in Penarth, provided the spark, smashing a reverse stick shot goalwards which was deflected past the hapless student ‘keeper by Phil Lane.
The lead was short-lived however, and Swansea were back on level terms almost immediately when they dispossessed the Bears’ defence and broke through on goal, with a two-on-one advantage giving Penarth ‘keeper Simon Comfort little chance of preventing the equaliser.
Despite being pegged back, the visitors remained dominant and continued to press, while Swansea only posed a real threat on the counter-attack, where some resolute last man defending from Joe Wells and Jamie Davison - and a few excellent saves from Comfort kept the students from adding to their tally. The threat on the counter notwithstanding, Penarth continued to create the most chances and eventually struck the vital blow as a well-worked penalty corner routine saw Lane find Dave Stevens, who scored for his third game in a row.
Going into half-time at 2-1, Penarth’s lead remained tenuous – but not for long. With the next goal likely to be crucial to the outcome, the Vale side ensured that it was one that stretched their advantage, with Chris McCarthy hounding the Swansea defence into an early high turnover, with Lane again capitalising to make it 3-1.
The opportunist completed his hat-trick shortly after, this time with centre back Craig Llewellyn tackling aggressively to win possession high up the pitch before Lane drove into the ‘D’ and fired home.
Although the hosts grabbed a superb consolation goal to make it 4-2, such was the dominance of Penarth’s performance that it never really looked like a comeback was on the cards. Lane grabbed his fourth to restore the Bears’ three-goal lead, and added a fifth for good measure, this one the pick of the bunch, beating several Swansea defenders before firing a reverse stick shot into the top corner.
The scoring was rounded off by Sam Chick, a defence-splitting pass from Andy Strong finding the captain in the opposition 25 before his square ball to Tipping was diverted into his own net by the covering Swansea defender.
Unfortunately for Penarth, their 7-2 victory was all but matched by their Bridgend rivals, and sees them take just a slender one-point advantage into the last game of the season. With the fixture essentially becoming a promotion play-off final, if the Bears can avoid defeat they will retain second spot in De Cymru 1 and guarantee elevation to De Cymru & the Marches 2 for 2017-18.
Goalscorers: Phil Lane (5), Dave Stevens, Sam Chick
PENARTH 6-3 Robinsons ‘A’
A week on from securing their second successive promotion as champions, the 1st XI were as hungry as ever as they faced promotion-chasing Robinsons in their last home game of the 2016-17 league campaign. Continually setting new targets to chase, Penarth wanted nothing less than another victory to make it two full seasons unbeaten at home and extend their current eleven-game unbeaten run in Conference North.
Early league leaders Robinsons had been the victims at the start of the incredible winning streak, which started way back in November and ignited Penarth’s promotion march, and now it was the visitors’ turn to need a victory to keep their own hopes of promotion aflame.
With the wind in their back, the Bristol-based side came out hot and put Penarth on the back foot early on. They were quickly rewarded for their endeavour too as, flooding men forward, the ball eventually found its way to an unmarked attacker at the back post, who gave the visitors the lead within five minutes of the start.
This, however, only served to awaken the sleeping Bears, who wasted no time in restoring parity. Winning a penalty corner, Laith El-Khatib’s drag flick was illegally stopped on the line, and the resulting penalty flick was comfortably dispatched by player/coach Ben Croxall.
Penarth have hit a rich vein of form from penalty corners of late, and were at their clinical best once again, adding two quick set-piece goals to open an advantage before the interval. There was no stopping El-Khatib’s second drag flick of the game and, not to be outdone, Croxall stepped up to convert from the top of the 'D' to make it three-from-three heading into half-time.
Despite holding a commanding margin, Penarth knew that, if Robinsons could snatch the next goal, it would be game on once more, but the Bears ensured that there would be no ramping up of the pressure as they scored almost immediately from the restart. Once again, the strike came from a penalty corner, this time with injector Sam Williamson reacting quickest to a save to grab his first goal of the season.
With nothing to lose, Robinsons started to throw everything and the kitchen sink at their hosts but one of Penarth’s strengths of late has been their shape and structure, and that willingness to defend saw off wave after wave of attack. With less than ten minutes remaining, however, there was a final flurry of activity and, with the game won, Penarth thought better of putting bodies on the line as Robinsons lined one up from the top of the 'D' to peg a goal back.
The visitors immediately pulled their ‘keeper off and went to a kicking back for one last throw of the dice, but it proved to be a gamble too far as Croxall immediately threw an aerial over the back line for his front front three to chase, leaving Chris Baker with an empty net to tap into.
Robinsons continued with the kicking back tactic, hoping that the spare outfield player would give them an advantage, and duly overloaded the Penarth defence to grab a third goal. The Bears, however, showed that they remained the superior side, taking the ball straight up the other end to win a final penalty corner. With no recognised ‘keeper in the defensive cordon, the visitors were sitting ducks and El-Khatib made no mistake to score his second and give Penarth a 6-3 victory.
In stark contrast to the previous week’s ‘game of the season’ against Firebrands, this encounter lacked the quality expected of a top-of-the-table clash. The miserable conditions clearly did not help matters, and Robinsons desperate attempts to keep their hopes of promotion alive turned the game into a scrappy affair. Penarth, too, were far from their flowing best, but were happy with the discipline and clinical finishing in front of goal as they achieved the secondary target of remaining unbeaten at home. They now move on to Yate for this week’s season finale with the new target of scoring at least two goals to break the 100 mark for the second successive season in league competition while, of course, keeping their winning streak intact.
Goalscorers: Laith El-Khatib (2), Ben Croxall (2), Chris Baker, Sam Williamson
PENARTH ‘B’ 4-1 PENARTH ‘C’
The final Penarth derby of the 2016-17 campaign proved to be the best of the lot as, with promotion for the ‘B’ team already confirmed, both sides relaxed and played out the most entertaining game seen at this level all season.
A strong opening from the senior side saw them exerting constant pressure, but the ‘C-siders’ defence, marshalled expertly by James Davies, stood firm and, turning the tables with almost their first serious attack of the game, were rewarded with a surprise lead as a lightning fast break involving Dave Kidby and Adam Morse swept the ball up the field before Marc Sawyer finished coolly.
This moment turned the game on its head. The B's were rattled and the C's enjoyed a period of control before skipper Dave Watkins was able to regain his grip on the midfield. However, it was only after a succession of missed chances and penalty corner attempts that one of the latter was eventually converted by Simon Wilkinson to send the teams into the break on level terms.
Watkins reorganised his troops at this point, making what turned out to be a decisive change by moving Richard Skone into a playmaking role from which he was able to dictate much of the second half.
The B's continued to press but determined defence kept the scores level and the counter-attack remained an ever-present danger, with goalkeeper Mark Harris having to make key saves. With the clock starting to run down, however, the dam broke at last and the senior side were able to pull away, starting with Dave Thomas scoring from close range following a fine passing move and a quick one-two with Skone at the top of the ‘D’.
The breakthrough was followed by two more rapid-fire goals as Wilkinson got his second with a neat piece of opportunism, and Skone rounded off a man-of-the-match performance with a quality finish to another slick move. The 4-1 final score, however, did not really reflect the game which, in truth, was always a much tighter contest.
PENARTH ‘B’: Simon Wilkinson (2), Dave Thomas, Richard Skone
PENARTH ‘C’: Marc Sawyer
The final Saturday of GoCrea8 League action sees all four Penarth sides in action, with the 2nd XI’s encounter with Bridgend at Stanwell (noon start) taking top billing. Both 1st and 3rd XIs are away this weekend, at Yate and Swansea City respectively, while the Fourths bring the curtain down on their first season in 20 years by providing the opening act at Stanwell (10.15am start).
Updated 12:03 - 21 Mar 2017 by Craig Llewellyn