SWEET SIXTEEN AS HOCKEY CLUB CONTINUES TITLE BID

SWEET SIXTEEN AS HOCKEY CLUB CONTINUES TITLE BID

By Richard Bromiley
19th February
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1st and 3rd XIs both had important back-to-back league fixtures, but 16 unanswered goals went a long way to bolstering the latter’s promotion push.


PENARTH ‘B’ 6-0 Swansea ‘F’

Still stinging from the previous weekend’s defeat to promotion and title rival Whitchurch, the 3rd XI returned to Stanwell to take on a Swansea side comprised entirely of students from the city’s university, and the only other team in De Cymru 2 to have inflicted a loss on the Bears.

Having turned the tables on their opposition in the second meeting shortly before Christmas – just as they had with Whitchurch – Penarth were uncertain as to the strength of the side they would be facing, but were soon made to realise that this would be as straightforward an encounter as game two.

Swansea enjoyed much of the early possession and pressure, keeping Penarth goalkeeper Calum Grant on his toes as his defence scrambled to cover, but were denied the opening goal, allowing the home side to gain some composure. Having survived the storm, the Bears then took their game up a gear, eventually breaking the deadlock with a well-taken goal on the quarter hour.

A second strike, from a similarly well-worked build-up, followed closer to half-time, but Penarth knew that their lead was not yet commanding enough to withstand a second half surge from the students, and that a quick third goal was needed to provide a cushion. Taking the game to their opponents from the restart, the Bears soon achieved that aim and, with Swansea beginning to bicker amongst themselves, gradually put a stranglehold on the game.

Three further goal followed before the final whistle, with man-of-the-match honours going to young Gabe Pryde, who capped a fine individual performance by having a hand in the first four goals and eventually getting onto the scoresheet himself. With a clean sheet also in the books, Penarth bolstered their already healthy goal difference numbers as they put another potentially tricky opponent behind them in their bid to lift the division title.

Goalscorers: James Kidby (2), Gabriel Pryde, David Kidby, Joe Ramage, Jack Daly

PENARTH ‘B’ 10-0 Llanishen & Caerphilly ‘A’

The Thirds were at home again on Sunday afternoon, this time hosting De Cymru 2 whipping boys Llanishen & Caerphilly. Having already beaten the same opponent 15-0 and 11-0 in two earlier meetings at Hawthorn, the Bears could have been forgiven for expecting another pushover, but remained wary of a much-changed Llanishen line-up that featured several new – and younger – faces.

The home side need not have worried for, despite some earnest endeavour, the Cardiff-based side still could not offer much resistance and, once Richard Cousins had opened the scoring early in the first half, the game was only going one way. With the Kidby brothers joining Tyrone Moore and Jack Daly on the scoresheet before half-time, the Bears’ focus turned to again extending their goal difference, as well as edging closer to a century for the season.

Both Kidbys, Daly and Chris McCarthy added to the tally after the break, with Daly’s last-minute strike ensuring another double-figure victory as well as confirming his own hat-trick. With 16 unanswered goals across the weekend, Penarth reached 90 for the campaign so far and, with three games remaining, hold a 33-goal advantage over the next highest-scoring team in the division.

When games-in-hand play out, Penarth will still hold a three-point lead, but the title – and, indeed, promotion – is not yet a certainty, with two of their remaining games coming against potential rivals for the top two spots in the standings. A break from the action this week will bring mixed feelings for a side that thrives on momentum, but should also make the promotion race a little clearer as those chasing the Bears play each other.

Goalscorers: James Kidby (2), David Kidby (2), Jack Daly (3), Richard Cousins, Tyrone Moore, Chris McCarthy

Whitchurch ‘B’ 3-3 PENARTH ‘A’

Another high-scoring draw dented the 2nd XIs attempt to build continued momentum in their pursuit of promotion from De Cymru & The Marches 2 and, in many ways, the game encapsulated their season so far, with equal measures of flair, lack of sustained application and a determination not to lose.

Friday night’s encounter at Sophia Gardens started at a frenetic pace and, with barely two minutes on the game clock, Matt Stollery left his marker for dead and raced into the Whitchurch D to open the scoring. However, Penarth immediately fell victim to a sucker punch as Whitchurch were given acres of room to fashion an equaliser, but bounced back almost as quickly to retake the lead after only eight minutes, when David Joyce completed a move he had started at half way by flicking past the goalkeeper from close range.

A period of stability would have been nice for the Bears, but Gareth Thomas - having a fine game for Whitchurch – scored one himself and then set up another to ensure that the Cardiff side went into the half-time break leading 3-2.

The second half saw Penarth expend much effort trying to prise open their opponents’ defence, and a good interchange of passes between Usman Dhami, Aaron Fulton-Brown and Jack Jopson nearly brought a much sought after equaliser. It took some time and a combination of luck and skill before the scores were eventually levelled, as the visitors pressed right to the end.

A minute before the final whistle, a ball fired out to the left wing by Liam Murphy was deflected upwards off a defender’s stick, travelling 40 feet in the air and towards the Whitchurch penalty spot. Joyce was first to react and met the ball on the full at head height, his audacious first time shot on the reverse whistling past the Whitchurch goalkeeper and into the top corner to secure a point for the Bears and deny the home side a victory they thought they had secured.

Goalscorers: Matthew Stollery, David Joyce (2)

Whitchurch ‘ G’ 3-5 PENARTH ‘C’

The 4th XI dominated the first half of their against a game Whitchurch team to take a 2-0 lead into the half-time interval – but then switched off massively at start of second period to allow the home side to defy their bottom of the division status and claim three quick goals to turn the tie on its head.

The shock of falling behind stung Penarth into a rapid response and, led by their young contingent, scored three unanswered goals to eventually win the match 5-3. Iwan Meddins produced an almost perfect performance, scoring two goals and running the side from centre forward, as the Bears clung onto the second promotion spot in De Cymru 3, but Penarth cannot allow a repeat of this performance against stronger opposition, with rivals still waiting in the wings to deny them elevation next season.

PENARTH ‘D’ 1-2 Gwent ‘C’

An experienced group of grizzled campaigners turned out for the 5th XI in Saturday’s curtain-raiser at Stanwell, but were undone – if hardly disgraced - by a hugely promising team of Gwent youngsters. In a very entertaining end-to-end game, the old versus young contest proved fascinating, and the manner of the triumph by the away team was appreciated by the home crowd.

PENARTH 2-3 Cardiff University

PENARTH 1-1 Clifton Robinsons

The 1st XI faced two tricky matches against teams in the same congested mid-table region of the Verde Recreo Premiership knowing that points from both were probably required to maintain their bid for a fourth successive promotion.

Saturday’s game with Cardiff University proved to be a back-and-forth affair, with a single goal separating the sides at the interval, but then a glut arriving in the second half as the Bears attempted to get back into the game, only to be undone by a swift response from the students.

Returning to Stanwell to face fourth-placed Clifton Robinsons on Sunday, Penarth again remained in contention for victory to the very end, but could not break down a resolute defence when it mattered, and found the visiting goalkeeper in fine form to deny multiple scoring opportunities. As a result, the two sides took a share of the spoils confirming their positions in the chasing pack.

This weekend sees four of the five Penarth teams in action, opening with the 4ths taking on the 5ths at Stanwell (12pm start) in a game that should have opened last Sunday’s slate. With the 1st XI travelling to the Cotswolds to face Wotton-under-Edge (1.30pm start), Saturday’s main game on home soil is the 2nd XI’s own encounter with a promotion-chasing Wotton side (1.45pm 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 (d_stevens81@hotmail.co.uk) for further information.

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