“Any breakdown in play was quickly seized upon by the Belarus side, who proved adept at turning defence into attack”
SC Stroitel Brest 10-0 PENARTH HC
The Vale club, drafted in late to the eight-team tournament in Vinnitsa, found themselves facing potentially the best side in the competition in the game that got four days of hockey underway over the Whitsun weekend, with SC Stroitel Brest of Belarus having recently been a part of the top flight European Hockey League.
The early start appeared to catch the Bears napping, with Stroitel opening the scoring with less than two minutes on the clock, and Penarth’s inability to clear their lines was continually punished by the clinical Belarusians who, frequently finding themselves with a man advantage in the Penarth ‘D’, quickly extended their advantage to three goals by the end of the first quarter.
Penarth slowly found their feet, keeping possession for longer and gradually threatening the Stroitel goal with more regularity, Chris Baker twice being denied by the opposing goalkeeper in the closing moments of the period. Stroitel were quick to kill off any thoughts of a comeback, however, adding a fourth from a penalty corner as play resumed and putting two more on the board before half-time.
Penarth’s penalty corner game wasn’t as sharp as their opponents, although Ben Croxall went close enough to force the Stroitel ’keeper into making a save midway through the second period, and any breakdown in play was quickly seized on by the Belarus side, who proved adept at turning defence into attack.
The second half began as did the first, with Stroitel adding to their tally within minutes of the restart, but Penarth eventually began to come into the game, enjoying longer spells of pressure and going close to opening their account, both from set pieces – where Croxall was only narrowly off-target – and open play, where the Bears finally beat the Stroitel ‘keeper only to see the ball come back off a post!
The final quarter began with the Belarus national champions eight goals in front and chasing double figures. They edged closer with a ninth strike despite a triple save from substitute goalkeeper Mark Harris – on for the luckless Simon Comfort – and eventually made it ten with seven minutes still on the clock. Penarth, however, enjoyed their best period of the game and, despite losing Calum Westaway to the bloodwagon after taking a ball to the head, denied their opponents any further additions to the score, with captain Tom Haran twice making vital tackles.
At the other end, David Joyce came closest to replying for the Bears, having a chance ruled out after the ball that fed him was ruled to have been too high, while Jack Jopson and Joe Thomas did their best to create chances, only to find the Stroitel ‘keeper in no mood to surrender his clean sheet.
All in all, this was a brutal introduction to international competition for Penarth, but the side can take comfort not only from their steadily improving contribution to the game, but also that they are unlikely to meet another opponent quite as ruthless as Stroitel. The two other teams in Pool A fought out a 1-0 result, with neither looking too strong for the Bears, who take on Croatian side HC Zelina at 10am local time (8am UK) on Saturday.
Updated 00:48 - 3 Jun 2017 by Craig Llewellyn
Regular reports from Vinnitsa will be posted on both the club’s official website (www.penarthhc.com} and Facebook pages, with live game updates appearing on its Twitter feed (@PenarthHockey)