PENARTH ‘A’ 7-1 Cardiff & Met ‘E’
Penarth welcomed the second of two Cardiff & Met sides in De Cymru 1 to Stanwell confident of a victory as the visitors turned up with only ten players, but struggled to make the extra man count in the first half, guilty of turning the ball over too quickly and allowing the visitors to maintain a foothold in the game.
Fortunately, goalkeeper Simon Comfort alert when called upon, and a sloppy first half saw both teams fail to convert chances, with the hosts becoming more frustrated as the period went on. The interval, however, allowed Penarth to regroup and the team talk focused on playing the sort of hockey which had served them so well this season, passing the ball around and keeping possession.
The Bears’ more structured second half approach paid off quickly, with Richard Baker orchestrating the midfield and creating space which was capitalised on early in the half with James Kidby scoring a screamer to break the deadlock.
It quickly became 2-0 as Chris McCarthy drove into the ‘D’ and spun past several defenders before squeezing the ball in at the near post. McCarthy grabbed a second soon after, as Baker found him in space at the top of the ‘D’, and went on to complete a quick-fire hat-trick to make it 4-0, reacting quickest to tap home after Sam Chick’s shot came back off the post.
Despite the game slipping away from them, Cardiff & Met grabbed a consolation goal midway through the half, but there was to be no comeback as the visitors’ exertions in playing a man down began to show and Penarth found more and more space in the final third. Owen Hopkins added a fifth for the home side, sniping at the back post, before man-of-the-match Baker added a sixth from a smartly-worked penalty corner routine. The scoring was rounded off with Hopkins grabbing his second of the game to make it a comfortable 7-1 victory to the Bears and provide a distinct contrast between halves.
The victory, coupled with defeat for second-placed Bridgend, sees Penarth move into the promotion places for the first time this season, but the competition to join likely De Cymru 1 champions Cardiff University in the higher echelons remains fierce and Penarth will look to keep winning to ensure they remain in the top two come the end of the season.
Goalscorers: Chris McCarthy (3), Owen Hopkins (2), James Kidby, Richard Baker
Chippenham 4-8 PENARTH
Like the 2nd XI, the Firsts travelled to Chippenham with an under-strength squad. Despite their promotion to Conference North, the senior side knew there would be days like this when the club committee decided to re-establish the long-lost 4th XI, with tough weekends where squads would be stretched to their limit, and it is testament to the commitment of the playing staff that this was the team’s first bare eleven of the season.
Despite the limited numbers, Penarth were in confident mood as they journied back down the M4 for the second time in a week, knowing that their game would be won in the head rather than the legs, especially with Chippenham boasting a full bench. What the Bears lacked in numbers, they made up for in quality and quickly established themselves as the ‘stinger’ team, with Tim Urlings got in behind a Ben Croxall aerial, scoring a less than conventional finish after deceiving the ‘keeper with a miss-control.
Despite their lowly league position, Chippenham carried an attacking threat that boasted the second highest home goal tally, bettered only by their opponents on the day. This was borne out as they quickly levelled the scores by dispatching a well-worked penalty corner into the bottom corner.
Not to be outdone, however, Penarth’s drag flick specialist took centre stage, Laith El-Khatib firing home a penalty corner of his own and, keen to show there full repertoire, the visitors scored from a second set piece, with El-Khatib sending the ball back to injector Sam Williamson who, in turn, found Urlings at the near post to make it 3-1.
As the half ticked on, Chippenham’s substitutes began to come into play, and their fresher legs in attack piled the pressure on the Penarth back line, forcing a turnover in a dangerous position and making the visitors pay by clawing a goal back. However, with the half time whistle approaching with the promise of a five-minute break, Penarth raised the intensity once more and were rewarded for their efforts as effervescent midfielder Chris Baker restored the two-goal lead in customary fashion, beating two defenders on his way to the 'D' before finishing on his backhand.
After the interval, and with freshness in their legs, the Bears made another big push to build an unassailable lead. After play was cruelly pulled back for a Penarth free hit when Urlings had already broken through the Chippenham back line, the Vale side would not be denied and scored from the resulting set-piece as El-Khatib found enough space at the top of the 'D' to wind up and smash in Penarth’s fifth.
Joe Thomas was next on the scoresheet to grab a rare goal, albeit in familiar circumstances as he performed the soon-to-be-patented 'Joe Thomas spin’ to beat the ‘keeper,. However, it was David Joyce who got the goal of the game, against his home town club, as he dinked the ball over a defender’s stick and through his legs before unleashing a ferocious shot past a motionless ‘keeper and into the roof of the net.
As Penarth’s legs began to fail in the closing stages, Chippenham showed great spirit to pull back two quick-fire goals to make the scoreboard respectable, but Urlings had the final word, rounding out his hat-trick with another ‘suspect’ goal, duffing his backhand shot to fool the ‘keeper and continue his climb up the goalscoring charts.
In what could have been a potential banana skin for their title aspirations, Penarth navigated the fixture wisely, playing the game in short bursts, raising the intensity when required to maintain control throughout the fixture to claim their eighth victory in a row, but now set their sights on a run of tougher fixtures against potential promotion rivals.
Goalscorers: Tim Urlings (3), Laith El Khatib (2), Chris Baker, David Joyce, Joe Thomas
PENARTH ‘B’ 2-0 Swansea City ‘C’
One week on from triumphing in the third intra-club clash of the season, Penarth ‘B’ welcomed bottom of the table Swansea City to Stanwell, having already comfortably beaten the ‘cellar dwellers’ twice this season.
It was surprising, therefore, that the first ten minutes or so proved to be a relatively even affair, with Penarth goalkeeper Mark Harris being called into action on more than a few occasions to save the home team’s blushes. Eventually, however, the Bears began to find their form, and the midfield trio of Adam Morse, Dave Thomas and the returning Keir Vanner started to take control of the game.
With both Richard Skone and Dave Watkins finding a lot of space on the right, Penarth’s increasing pressure produced numerous penalty corners, but they proved unable to convert these into goals. Other open play chances also went begging before a good move, this time down the left, eventually found Matthew Birch in space inside the Swansea ‘D’, before unselfishly feeding Dave Watkins for a simple tap-in.
This turned out to be the only score of the half and, although satisfied with their performance at half-time, Penarth also came out for the second half knowing that a Swansea score could change the outlook of the game. As it turned out, the home side continued to dominate and spent nearly all of the half encamped in Swansea territory, with only one or two breakaways from the visitors giving the Penarth defence of Simon Wilkinson and James Davies anything to do.
As with the first half, however, Penarth missed numerous opportunities to put the game away and, when they did find the target, were kept at bay by an inspired Swansea ‘keeper, who made at least a dozen fine saves. Despite an almost continual stream of penalty corners, Penarth failed to capitalise until ten minutes from time, when Birch fiercely despatched a set-piece into the bottom corner to give the Bears some breathing space.
Penarth should have added to their tally, but continued to miss chances right up to the final whistle. The 2-0 victory was no reflection of the dominance in both territory and possession that the home team enjoyed and, while cementing the team’s second spit in De Cymru 3, a better conversion rate from penalty corners will be essential if they are to take anything from this week’s home encounter with top-of-the-table Swansea University.
Goalscorers: Dave Watkins, Matthew Birch
Swansea University ‘C’ 5-0 PENARTH 'C'
The students got an early taste of Penarth hockey as the Vale side’s ‘C’ team faced the daunting prospect of a Saturday morning trip to King George V field to take on the runaway league leaders.
With many regular players missing throughout the Club, the opportunity arose for the ‘C-siders’ to give a debut to Sam Jones who, despite the under siege Penarth midfield and defence being unable to provide the service that would have made the most of his and fellow forward Toby Friedl's pace, gave a promising and creditable performance.
Penned back from the start, a reverse stick flick from the head of the ‘D’ gave Penarth ‘keeper Luke Williams little chance with a goal that would gave graced a higher level encounter. This gave the students confidence and their high-speed pressurising tactics forced the visiting side to defend deeper than they would have liked.
The University doubled their lead when a shot that seemed to be going wide was deflected in at the far post by a lurking Swansea forward, but Penarth continued to dig deep and ‘keeper Williams produced a string of excellent saves that looked set to deny the home side the opportunity to extend their advantage before half-time. Shortly before the break, however, he was again left with little chance of stopping a shot that effectively killed off the match as a contest.
The second half was all about pride for Penarth as the students continued to pen them deep in their half, preventing any opportunity for a consolation goal. Man-of-the-match Williams continued to frustrate and deny the students, but could do little as they ran in two further goals to seal a final scoreline of 5-0 and demonstrate why they are undoubtedly the best side in the division.
Three Penarth teams are in action this weekend, with the 1st XI hosting Bristol UWE at Stanwell School (1.45pm start), immediately after the 3rd XI have taken on Swansea University at the same venue (noon start). The 2nd XI, meanwhile, look to continue their promotion push with a mid-morning fixture away at Cardiff Medics.
The weekend's games will be followed by a fund-raising 'race night' social event at Penarth Athletic Club, starting at 7.30pm.
Updated 13:03 - 14 Mar 2017 by Craig Llewellyn