PENARTH ‘B’ 1-0 Cardiff Medics ‘A’
While the 2nd XI were scheduled to star in Saturday’s prime-time fixture, the Thirds did their bit to steal the show in the opening act as they welcomed De Cymru 2 leaders Cardiff Medics to a soggy Stanwell.
Having faced something of a selection headache, captain James Davies had done well to put together a team which he hoped would be capable of competing with a much younger fitter student side that had run out 5-0 winners on their first meeting of the season. With Matthew Birch already standing in at goalkeeper, Davies was particularly thrilled to see the unexpected arrival of talented youngster Dan Munro Morris, but suffered two late blows to his forward line with the absence of Lewis Ingram and the sight of David Watkins struggling with the ongoing effects of ‘flu, which would relegate him to the bench for much of the afternoon.
Unlike previous weeks - and certainly last week’s defeat at Bridgend - Penarth started with the ball and kept it, passing through midfield and switching it around at the back to set the tone for what was to come. It was the home side that almost struck first, Marc Sawyer escaping his marker and turning back the clock to skip round his opponent, only to see the Medics keeper close the angle and prevent any chance of scoring. The Medics seemed shocked by this confident approach, but it only seemed to spur them on, and they too began to move the ball with purpose. Penarth’s midfield trio of Scott Munro Morris, Richard Cousins and the well-tanned Tom Parkinson held their shape, however, and forced the students to attack down the flanks, where they were well dealt with by veteran Rob Harrison and emerging talent Elys Johnson.
The Bears also showed no signs of nerves, and used Thomas Ricaux and the younger Munro Morris to good effect, linking up well with Adam Morse as the game turned into one of exciting end-to-end hockey that umpires Neil Jewess and David Gale did well to keep flowing despite the conditions. The Medics clearly wanted to play an attractive passing game, but quickly became frustrated at being dispossessed, while Penarth used the power of the strike to adopt a more direct route to goal as Davies combined with the returning Craig Llewellyn to bravely win tackles and switch play from one end of the pitch to the other.
While the Bears looked dangerous on the counter-attack, the Medics have enough quality at this level to repeatedly pose a threat to Penarth’s D but, on the one occasion that they came close to scoring, the umpire spotted an offending foot to protect Birch’s impressive clean sheet. The decision also precipitated the game’s decisive moment as the ball was quickly cleared high up the pitch, where good link-up play resulted in the first penalty corner of the day, allowing Llewellyn to step up and unleash a rocket of a shot, via a defender’s foot, into the bottom corner to give Penarth the lead at half-time.
While the Bears caught their breath, and the crowd slowly increased despite the incessant rain, the resolve to get something from a game in which they were perceived as the underdog was clear. Right from the restart, Thomas Ricaux continued to create attacking opportunities, linking well with Dan Munro Morris to tie the Medics midfield in knots. Johnson, too, was playing out of his skin, often faced with opponents ten years older than him as he belied his tender 13 years with a performance worthy of greater experience. With Penarth looking more and more in control, Watkins was eventually introduced as the secret weapon that could seal the game, and the move almost paid dividends, with the veteran winning a number of penalty corners that went agonisingly close to increasingly the lead, while also going close to converting with a baseball-style swing.
As time ran down, and the Medics began to throw everything at the Bears in increasing panic, Penarth were dealt a cruel blow when Harrison succumbed to injury, only for Morse to show his versatility by filling a third different role of the afternoon. A potentially more serious blow could have come just a couple of minutes from the end when, having skipped past two defenders for the first time all afternoon, the Medics’ most influential player was met by the onrushing Birch and the pair collided with some force as the stand-in ‘keeper cleared his lines. Despite taking some time to retake his feet, and struggling with a knee injured in the collision, Birch continued, and was grateful that that would be his first and final involvement of the half as Davies dealt with the ensuing sideline hit and Penarth saw out the remaining seconds to snatch an unexpected – but well-deserved - victory
Goalscorers: Craig Llewellyn
PENARTH ‘A’ 4-2 Cardiff University ‘B’
The 2nd XI were looking to bounce back from a frustrating defeat against Whitchurch in the first post-Christmas fixture by returning the favour against a Cardiff University team that had been promoted to De Cymru & The Marches 2 alongside the Bears last season, but had narrowly beaten their hosts in their last three meetings.
The students got off on the wrong foot by arriving too close to the start time to enjoy a proper warm-up and Penarth were in no mood to be charitable. Following a minute of silence to honour the late Alan Carter, the Bears pressed from the off, and were rewarded almost immediately as Dave Joyce pounced on a loose pass before firing superbly past the University ‘keeper to snatch the lead with less than ten seconds on the clock!
With the visitors struggling to find any cohesion, Penarth remained dominant for most of the first half and doubled their advantage midway through the period, moved the ball with fluency before Sam Chick was able to square the ball across goal for Joyce to bag his second. At 2-0 down, the University pressed higher as they looked for a way back into the game, but Penarth played their way out of defence superbly, Sam Docherty and Dave Stevens utilising the three-man centre midfield to great effect to break through the press and launch promising attacking moves of their own. Left back Tom Griffiths was also able to capitalise on the students’ tactics by throwing aerial balls over the midfield to relieve any pressure on the hosts.
Despite their dominance, however, Penarth remained wary that the University posed a significant threat on the counter-attack and, despite captain Andy Strong breaking most attacks up with some fine tackles, the students created several chances which were only repelled by some fine tackling from the back four and excellent saves by goalkeeper Scott Fulton-Brown. The resistance could not hold forever though and, right on the stroke of half-time, the University finally pulled a goal back, catching Penarth on the break to make it 2-1 at the interval.
A tactical change during the break saw the Bears adopt a different formation in the second period, with Jamie Wheeler, in particular, working tirelessly to nullify Cardiff’s biggest attacking threat. The reward also came as Penarth restored their two-goal advantage early in the half, with good build-up play again creating the initial chance. Although it looked like the opening had gone begging, great composure from Sam Salisbury then recycled the ball as he unselfishly found Joyce, who completed his hat trick with a reverse stick strike.
Penarth continued to press and were rewarded with a fourth goal when Jack Jopson combed well with Phil Lane, before the latter drove into the D and snuck the ball past the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner. The Bears could well have added to their tally, but fine saves from the student ‘keeper denied both Joyce and Lane from adding to their earlier strikes.
At 4-1, Penarth also lost a little of their earlier discipline and were guilty of turning the ball over far too easily, allowing the University to dominate the closing stages of the game, eventually pulling a goal back to reduce the deficit. While a third strike could have made for an uneasy end for Penarth, some resolute defending and further fine saves from Fulton-Brown saw the Bears hold on for an important victory.
Goalscorers: David Joyce (3), Phil Lane
Neath ‘A’ 3-3 PENARTH ‘C’
Buoyed by their two wins on the previous weekend, the 4th XI travelled to Ysgol Bae Baglan looking to continue their winning streak against a Neath team lying in second place in the De Cymru 3 standings. However, a sudden shortage of players - and goalkeepers in particular - meant that the ‘C-siders’ travelled with only a bare eleven and equally realistic expectations of what they could get from the game.
With no recognised ‘keeper, stand-in captain Zbig Sobiesierski was open to offers as to who would like to fill the role – and was taken aback by four senior players vying for the responsibility! The pads were eventually handed over to former international forward David Thomas, who duly made his debut between the sticks. Having now deployed a midfielder in goals, and mindful that the team contained three young forwards in Greg Cross, Iwan Meddins and Zayn Zaman, the team lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, looking to show their attacking intentions from the start.
Penarth opened the more brightly and, once again, fine approach work from Rhys Meddins down the right led to a string of chances for the young forward line. However, they were unable to get the ball past the Neath ‘keeper and the teams went into the interval on equal terms at 0-0.
Turning to play into the wind at the start of the second period took nothing out of Penarth’s sails and, within ten minutes of the restart, they had managed to create a 2-0 advantage. As anticipated, Neath then began to pile on the pressure and managed to score two goals of their own, the first from a mis-hit shot and the second after an attacker appeared to have fouled veteran defender Ian Brookfield on the edge of the D. Penarth responded almost instantly to score a third goal, only to see Neath equalise again from a well struck penalty corner, the flurry of scoring eventually leaving the match to end with honours even at three apiece.
Goalscorers: Iwan Meddins, Zayn Zaman, Greg Cross
All four Penarth sides will be in action this weekend, with the 1st XI returning from their inadvertent hiatus to host Swansea University at Stanwell (1.45pm start). The 2nd XI travel to Cyncoed looking to avenge another pre-Christmas defeat, this time against Cardiff & Met, while the Thirds face a tricky weekend double-header with Whitchurch sides at opposite ends of the De Cymru 2 standings, travelling across the capital on both occasions. The 4th XI, meanwhile, will look to maintain their recent unbeaten as they open proceedings at Stanwell against Bridgend (noon start).
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.
Anyone interested in joining the club at senior or youth level can contact club secretary Dave Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.
Updated 09:14 - 24 Jan 2018 by Richard Bromiley