Hockey club's table-topping start to league campaign
8:01pm Wednesday 2nd October 2013 in Sport
AFTER A subdued prelude, the opening round of fixtures in the 2013-14 Davis Wood Hockey League could not have provided a better start for the two Penarth sides, with a brace of convincing victories leaving the Vale's only men's team at the top of their respective divisions.
The 1st XI faced a tricky trip, but travelled with the rare luxury of a 14-man squad, which proved its value as they produced a display of great intensity.
With Penarth’s new playing system still looking like a work in progress, Wotton dominated the first 20 minutes. Good stick work eventually resulted in a penalty corner and the subsequent drag flick eluded goalkeeper Mark Harris' best efforts.
Just as captain Mark ‘Jonty’ Thomas began to fear it might be a long season, Penarth clicked into gear, with vice-captain Chris Baker producing some inspired hockey. Coaxing would-be defenders into poorly timed tackles, Baker gradually forced the opposition to back off too much, dribbled into the 'D' and drew the goalkeeper before squaring the ball to Sam Chick who levelled.
Although Penarth went down to 10 men after Matt Birch was shown the yellow card for a dangerously high stick, the visitors reached half-time unscathed, and confident they were now the better side.
The second half was a complete contrast to the first and, after some pearls of wisdom from former skipper Rich Baker and his vice-captain sibling, it was, indeed, Penarth who played with much greater intent and improved composure.
With the side restored to full strength, Baker, jnr, converted good play into a firm strike across the 'D' and Birch atoned for his time in the sin bin by diving headlong to deflect the cross into the net.
As Penarth combined stubborn defence with penetrating attack, more chances came their way and, despite a misplaced injection from the by-line forcing Thomas to resort to 'Plan B,' he fired a snap shot into the bottom corner.
Now 3-1 up, further icing was added to the cake courtesy of some superb work from Gareth Hurman at top of 'D,' with a cheeky reverse pass allowing veteran Phil Lane the time to smash the ball home.
Although the game ended on a sour note as a combination of reckless challenges, red mist and obscure decision-making resulted in three yellow cards, it was still a great start to the season that left Penarth at the top of De Cymru & The Marches First Division.
PENARTH A 3
TRINITY ST DAVID'S 0
The 2nd XI welcomed the students of Trinity St David’s knowing that, as the opposition was potentially the weakest they would face, a big win was vital to avoid the sort of nailbiting season experienced in 2012-13.
With a squad featuring a number of veteran returnees and new acquisitions, Penarth pressured the student defence without actually breaking through. The siege, however, was eventually rewarded when Dave Morgan opened the scoring midway through the half.
Despite Penarth’s superiority meaning that goalkeeper Calum Grant had barely a touch in the first half, the age-old problem of being unable to convert pressure into goals continued.
The usual half-time encouragement from captain Nick Pratt, initially, appeared to have little effect, but the Vale side gradually regained the upper hand and the combined efforts of Rory Vizard on the right flank, right half-turned-emergency goalkeeper-turned-forward Graeme ‘Crazy Legs’ Jones, veteran Derek Wooding and newcomer Arthur Jones eventually paved the way for Tom Davies to double the advantage.
The victory, and a healthy goal difference, was sealed when captain Pratt pulled the tactical masterstroke of substituting himself off the pitch shortly before Craig Llewellyn won a penalty corner. Unable to take the strike himself, Pratt called on the sweeper to complete the task and he responded by crashing home Penarth’s third goal.
With Grant keeping a clean sheet, the victory was enough to mirror the senior team’s feat of taking the early lead in their division, topping De Cymru 2 ahead of tougher challenges.
This coming Saturday the 1st XI head to Gloucester to take on Cleevillians, while the 2nd XI entertain old rivals Llanishen and Caerphilly in Barry.
The club always welcomes new, old and returning players, umpires, supporters, friends and helpers regardless of age and ability. Training takes place on the artificial turf at Barry Sport Centre every Wednesday, with the juniors in action between 6-7pm and seniors between 7-8pm.
Further information can be obtained from club secretary Dave Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org)