University of Exeter ‘A’ 3-7 PENARTH
The 1st XI travelled to the south coast with a streamlined squad, but also with an air of optimism that they could turn on the style and kick-start their stuttering season.
From the off, though, the home team – who started the day fourth overall in the Premiership table – clearly had plans of their own and pressed hard, winning, and converting, a penalty corner in the opening minute to take an early lead. Unlike previous weeks, however, Penarth refused to allow their heads to drop and, less than a minute later, were back on level terms as Laith Khatib fired a shot on the turn into the bottom corner to level the scores.
After the blistering start, the game settled down and proved to be a high quality affair, with both teams moving the ball about, building play patiently from the back and enjoying long periods of possession. It was the Bears, however, who gradually wrestled control and started to enjoy greater field territory, eventually being rewarded when Ben Croxall broke from defence and shot high into the net to put his side into the lead.
With the half coming to a close, the university continued to pose a threat, and a quick counter left Scott Fulton-Brown exposed at the back. Although he made a fine save to deny the students at the first attempt, the Penarth ‘keeper could not prevent the home side forcing home the rebound to once again square the tie going into the break.
Determined not to have their momentum broken, Penarth started the second half back in control and, even though they had the superior numbers and age on their side, it was the students that started to fade as the Welsh side retained possession for long periods, gradually wearing their opponents down before picking them apart. Khatib duly grabbing his second of the game, this time from a simple tap-in after some fine build-up play and close control in the ‘D’ from Ross Biggar left the ‘keeper stranded.
Biggar was then rewarded for his fine display as he finished off another team goal that started with patient build-up at the back from Croxall and Chris Hardy, before the ball was worked down the left and into Biggar, who was in the right place at the right time to again finish into an open net.
The Bears were now running riot, and Khatib soon sealed his hat-trick - and man-of-the-match honours - as he finished off a ruthless counter. This time, Hardy fired a disguised pass to Tom Haran on the right wing, the captain then spotting Khatib’s run in the D and supplying a ball that the veteran could control with one touch before swivelling and firing a shot across goal into the bottom corner.
With the pressure off, Penarth’s penalty corner routines were starting to flow, with Hardy slinging home a trademark flick before a well-worked move was finished off by Chris Baker to give Penarth a commanding 7-2 lead that quietened the Exeter supporters.
To their credit, the home side fought until the end and were rewarded with a last-minute consolation to end the scoring at 7-3.
Goalscorers: Laith Khatib (3), Ben Croxall, Ross Bigger, Chris Hardy, Chris Baker
PENARTH ‘A’ 5-1 Cardiff & Met ‘D’
The 2nd XI hosted old rivals Cardiff & Met at Stanwell looking to continue their pursuit of the top two spots in De Cymru & The Marches 2 but, with the top five teams separated by just three points before the game, it was also a fixture in which Penarth could not afford to drop points.
The visitors had produced a series of inconsistent results to this point in the season, and the Bears were rightly wary that their mid-table opponents could be a potential banana skin, but still started uncharacteristically slowly, struggling to string passes together and turning the ball over too easily. This allowed the visitors to have the better of the first half, and they capitalised with a fine goal, smashing home from close range to give Adam Putt no chance in the Penarth goal.
The Bears had a few chances to level, but failed to give the Cardiff ‘keeper anything more than a couple of routine saves to make, and went into half-time very much on the back foot. The only comforts Penarth could take from the opening period was that the deficit was only a single goal and that promising youngster Lewis Ingram was turning in a man-of-the-match performance, showing composure on the ball which the rest of the team seemed to have misplaced.
With captain Tom Parkinson giving the side the ‘hair-dryer treatment’ at the interval, the Bears came out for the second half a completely different animal. Where they had been clumsy and lethargic pandas in the first period, they adopted the energy and fight of grizzlies from the restart, immediately dominating possession and forcing the visitors deep into their own half.
With Cardiff sitting ever more defensively, the hosts found them a tough lock to pick and could have gone 2-0 down without Putt pulling off a couple of top-class saves on the counter attack. Midway through the half, however, Penarth eventually got a breakthrough, Aaron Fulton-Brown getting forward from right back and finding Jasminder Singh, who was able to squeeze the ball into the bottom corner.
After taking so long to break through, the floodgates now opened and Penarth racked up a further four goals. Usman Dhami unlocked the midfield with a perfect through ball for Dave Joyce to fire the hosts ahead, before the striker added a well-taken second shortly after to give the Bears breathing space. Rich Baker subsequently converted a nicely-worked penalty corner, before Matthew Stollery grabbed the fifth, converting a Singh cross to round off a superb team goal. Penarth could even have had a sixth before the final whistle, but Sam Chick was unable to convert a late penalty flick and the final score remained 5-1.
The win lifts Penarth back into third place, sitting just two points off top spot with their final game of 2018 an away trip to bottom of the table Wotton-under-Edge next Saturday.
Goalscorers: Jasminder Singh, David Joyce (2), Richard Baker, Matthew Stollery
Whitchurch ‘E’ 0-4 PENARTH ‘B’
Unavailability in the senior teams meant that the Thirds turned out for their top-of-the-table clash at Whitchurch with a bare eleven and handing a debut to youth team player Gabe Pryde.
The Bears had been on the wrong end of a 5-1 result when the two sides met at Stanwell in week two of the season, and were keen not to follow two double-digit wins with another defeat to the team sitting second overall in De Cymru 2 purely due to Penarth’s superior goal difference. The opening ten minutes suggested it could be a long afternoon in the drizzle for the visitors but some resolute defending ensured that the game remained scoreless and, even when they were temporarily reduced to nine men, the Bears proved more than a match for their hosts.
Indeed, it was during the period where the sides were unequal that Penarth finally seemed to grab the upper hand, using the extra space to press forward and establish a base camp in the Whitchurch half. Although chances – both from open play and set-pieces – were spurned to ensure the half remained goalless, the Vale side went into the break looking most likely to find a breakthrough, with youngsters Pryde, Joe Ramage and Elys Johnson providing attacking threats from all angles.
It didn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken, with a precision cross-field ball from Craig Llewellyn allowing Johnson to break into the opposition half and cause confusion in the penalty area. The ball eventually broke to James Kidby, who found the bottom corner to give Penarth the extra lift they had been waiting for.
Once ahead, there was no stopping the Bears. With goalkeeper Calum Grant not required to touch the ball in the entire second period, the visitors peppered the Whitchurch goal as the home side relied heavily on their own ‘keeper to limit the damage. The youngster was unable to keep everything out, however, with Dave Kidby doubling the score midway through the half, overlapping his brother at the head of the ‘D’ before taking the through ball and drilling it across the ‘keeper and into the net.
The younger Kidby’s determination created Penarth’s third goal, chasing an apparently lost cause to the far left of the area, before pulling it back for Matthew Birch to convert and, despite tweaking a hamstring in the pursuit, the forward was on hand to complete the scoring with an audacious lob over the bewildered ‘keeper from the edge of the area just minutes later.
The win, Penarth’s fifth in a row, cemented their position at the top of the division, but captain James Davies was quick to point out that there are two crucial games remaining before the Christmas break, with a trip to Swansea – the only other team to have conquered the Bears this season – on Saturday, before Bridgend, who have a game in hand over the leaders, visit Stanwell in mid-December.
Goalscorers: James Kidby (2), Dave Kidby, Matthew Birch
Gwent ‘C’ 2-2 PENARTH ‘C’
With a couple of late withdrawals compounding existing selection issues for a late game at Cwmbran Stadium, the 4th XI arrived with only nine men to take on hosts Gwent in a game that should have yielded vital points for their De Cymru 3 title push.
Unsurprisingly, the visitors had to withstand early pressure, with goalkeeper Jamie Lawrence producing some fine saves to keep the scores level, and it was only a penalty stroke that allowed Gwent to eventually take the lead. Penarth, however, hit back with an excellent goal from Derek Wooding to make it one apiece at half-time, and then took an unlikely lead early in the second period when man-of-the-match Greg Cross - who had played the lone striker role to perfection - finished a fine move to make it 2-1.
Penarth then defended doggedly until four minutes from the end, only to be undone when an attempted clearance ricocheted to Gwent player, who made the most of his good fortune to tap into an empty net, denying the Bears full points for their valiant effort.
Goalscorers: Derek Wooding, Greg Cross
PENARTH ‘D’ 0-1 Gwent ‘B’
The 5th XI did all they could to help limit the Fourths’ plight by taking the fight to the stronger of two Gwent teams in the division, but unfortunately went down 1-0 in a tight game that saw the home side produce enough chances to win. Neil Power stood out for the Bears with an excellent energy-packed performance.
All five Penarth teams will be back in Verde Recreo action this Saturday, with the 1st XI completing the first half of their Premiership schedule by hosting Team Bath Buccs at Stanwell (1.45pm start). The Seconds also wrap up their 2018 calendar with a trip to face bottom-of-the-table Wotton-under-Edge ‘B’ (3pm start), while the Thirds head to Swansea looking to extend their run in top spot against the stronger of the city’s two teams (2pm start). The 4th XI, meanwhile, host Whitchurch at Stanwell (3.30pm start), as the Fifths head to Cwmbran for a dreaded late game against hosts Gwent ‘C’ (4.30pm start).
Penarth Hockey Club always welcomes new, old and returning players, umpires, supporters, friends and helpers regardless of age and ability. Training takes place at Stanwell on Wednesdays, 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 (email@example.com) for further information.