AFTER a disappointing home defeat that cost top spot in the championship standings the previous week, Penarth Hockey Club's first team headed off on their longest away trip of the season so far determined to rediscover their spark and rocket back up the league.

On the anniversary eve of Guido Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, Penarth took three cars of firepower to the unfamiliar surroundings of Plymouth University, knowing that the student side, now above them in the division, would present typically tough opposition.

Unfortunately for the Bears, the game didn’t start with the bang they hoped for, as the university side capitalised on a defensive error to make it 1-0 early on. Like an impressionable youngster holding a sparkler, Penarth had had their fingers burned, but the embers of intent still burned brightly, and the Vale side gradually worked their way back into the game, with Andrew Willemite finally lighting the fuse by forcing a penalty corner out of the adolescent Plymouth side. Penarth’s resident penalty pyromaniac, Ben Croxall, was on hand to provide a drag flick into the back of the net and, despite both sides striving for a second strike, the first half would ended all square.

Whatever plots were hatched during the interval, the second period quickly flared into a tale of ill-discipline from both sides, as the umpires struggled to control the thermostat of an increasingly explosive game. Penarth, in search of a second goal that could fire some momentum, were leaving themselves more and more exposed in defence, and the Plymouth side burned them with a combination of speed and aggression to quickly move into a 3-1 lead.

It’s safe to say that, with only ten minutes left and still chasing a two-goal deficit, Penarth looked well and truly ‘Guy Fawke’d’ but, determined not to let another game fizzle out, they turned up the wick, producing some of their best hockey of the afternoon.

Willemite, ‘Catherine Wheeling’ around the midfield, provided a delightful assist for David Joyce, who finished as he would a toffee apple – only needing one bite – and, sensing that the flame of points could yet be rekindled, the Bears continued to push forward. Having come close to an equaliser on several occasions, the visitors finally earned another penalty corner, which Chris Baker despatched with a scorching drag flick into the top corner.

The fire was now burning brightly, and the fireworks continued to fly as both teams chased the winner in the closing moments. For one Penarth player, however, the furnace eventually got a little too hot and, having received his marching orders, Joe Thomas was left to huff and puff on the sidelines as the teams played out the last few minutes to share the spoils in a game that had been anything but a damp squib.

Goalscorers: Ben Croxall, David Joyce, Chris Baker

Cardiff Medics 2-2 PENARTH ‘A’

Although the second XI’s fixture against Cardiff Medics had succumbed to a double booking the previous weekend, a bye week for the Bears and the De Cymru and The Marches 2 league leaders’ desire to avoid too much of a backlog resulted in the game being played, unusually, under the Friday Night Lights of Llys Tal-y-Bont.

The students had started the season strongly, scoring 25 goals in their opening three games, so Penarth knew that a solid team performance was going to be needed if they were to end their own run of three consecutive defeats. Determined not to give their opponents an early incentive, the Bears started strongly and came close to opening the scoring almost immediately, with Joseph Wells’ strike from the top of the ‘D’ beating the Medics’ ‘keeper before being cleared off the line by a covering defender.

Having survived the early scare, the students quickly found their feet and used their pace and fitness to press the ball hard, giving no Penarth player any time on the ball. The ferocity of the Cardiff defence gradually paid off as they started to dominate the game, with the visitors struggling to move the ball up field, and the pressure eventually resulted in the opening goal giving them the lead midway through the first half.

Penarth looked most dangerous on the break, as the Medics’ high defensive line leaving the home side exposed at the back, and the Bears’ best chance of the half fell in this fashion, as Kier Vanner found space up front. However, just as he was about to pull the trigger, a covering defender came crashing through, taking the player well before getting a stick to the ball, but with no foul being awarded, it only added to the frustration building in the Vale side.

To make matters worse, Penarth were reduced to ten men minutes later, as captain Andy Strong was shown a yellow carded for politely – but apparently not politely enough - expressing his vexation at another controversial call going the students’ way. Despite weathering the storm short-handed, Penarth’s resistance could not last, and they were to concede another goal just before the break, going in 2-0 down at half-time.

Confident that they remained in the game, the second half saw a much better performance from the visitors, who were able to exert far more pressure on the students. The Bears were rewarded for their efforts early in the half, as Strong converted their first penalty corner of the game to pull one back, and there continued to be chances at both ends, with the Penarth rearguard doing a superb job to limit the free-scoring students to their two first half goals while both Tyrone Moore and James Kidby came close to grabbing an equaliser.

Penarth did have the ball in the back of the net late in the half, Jamie Wheeler latching onto a loose ball in the Medics ‘D’ and slapping home, only for another big decision to go against the Bears as the goal was disallowed in favour of a penalty corner just as the ball was crossing the line. That set piece went unconverted, but Penarth eventually saw some reward for their superb second half performance by grabbing a deserved equaliser at the death, with Tyrone Moore crashing a ball into the ‘D’ and Kidby converting deftly at the back post.

Having shown that they can live with top-of-the-table opposition, Penarth will hope that they can push on from Friday night’s result and reignite their season but, with new leaders Swansea University up next, the tough run of fixtures continues before any respite appears on the horizon.

Goalscorers: Andy Strong, James Kidby

PENARTH ‘B’ 5-1 Bridgend ‘B’

On the back of a first De Cymru 2 victory the previous Saturday, Penarth’s ‘B’ team knew that another decent performance at home against mid-table rivals Bridgend could only add to the momentum ahead of a vital run of fixtures leading into the Christmas break.

The Bears started brightly, dictating the early passages of play but, without putting the ball into the net, remained vulnerable to the rare Bridgend break, and that proved crucial when the ball popped loose from a Mark Harris save and fell kindly for a lurking forward, who made no mistake from close range.

Determined not to let the setback alter the pulse of the game, Penarth were quickly back on the offensive, taking play deep into the Bridgend half almost from the restart. With Richard Cousins and Adam Morse providing outlets in midfield, the ball was smartly transferred from back to front, eventually working an opening from which Dave Watkins was able to convert for the equaliser.

Although Bridgend remained a threat on the break, their crashed balls to the forward line were increasingly well dealt with by the central defensive pairing of Craig Llewellyn and Simon Wilkinson, while wing backs Graeme Jones and Rhys Meddins quickly turned defence into attack as the Bears strove for a second goal before the break. The breakthrough eventually came from a seemingly innocuous possession on the right, but which turned into a penetrating run and shot rifled high into the Bridgend net.

Buoyed by coming from behind ahead of the interval, it was a confident Penarth side that resumed, and that showed as the quick took control of the second period. Pressing deep in the Bridgend half denied the visitors the chance to break out of defence, and goal quickly followed. With the Bears own back line gaining in confidence and moving the ball well across the pitch to feed a rampaging midfield, it wasn’t long before Ollie Burland added a third goal – and his third in as many matches – as Penarth looked to improve their goal difference. Roger Griffiths and Scott Munro-Morris’ completed the rout – the latter with his first for the club after breaking a 20-year hiatus from the sport earlier in the season - and the 5-1 result allowed the Bears to end the weekend breaking even in the GD column with tougher opponents to come in the next few weeks.

Goalscorers: Dave Watkins, Roger Griffiths (2), Ollie Burland, Scott Munro-Morris

Gwent ‘B’ 2-2 PENARTH ‘C’

The ‘C-siders’ were the last Penarth side in action last weekend, travelling to face a Gwent side sitting in top spot in De Cymru 3.

As the sun began to set over Cwmbran Stadium, and the floodlights flickered into life to the accompaniment of early Bonfire Night celebrations, Penarth were keen to produce some fireworks of their own and, with a squad of 15, were able to match the tempo set by their hosts as both teams remained well-matched for the first 20 minutes.

However, Penarth’s inability to venture into the home ‘D’ gradually led to increased pressure on their own goal and, eventually, the first penalty corner of the game being awarded to Gwent. Although Simon Comfort produced a superb save, diving to his left to thwart a drag flick, he was unable to stop a shot on the rebound from wide on the left-side of the ‘D’ and, buoyed by taking the lead, Gwent managed to scramble a second goal five minutes later, going into the interval with a 2-0 lead that even they might admit was undeserved.

The second half started with Penarth defending more resolutely and, slowly, the visitors managed to take the initiative, using a combination of long balls out of defence from Will Ramage and the probing guile of veteran David Thomas in midfield to provide good attacking opportunities for the alternating forward line of Iwan Meddins, Zayn Zaman, Mathew Birch and Derek Wooding.

One particularly crisp move eventually saw Meddins pull his side back into the game as he converted a pinpoint cross, and this seemed to spark the Penarth players, resulting in an equaliser soon afterwards, as the timeless Wooding used his composure to fire in from close range.

Whilst both teams continued to seek the win, there were to be no further goals and the ‘C-siders’ - led by man-of-the-match Joe Ramage - left Gwent with a well-deserved, and hard-fought, draw after again showing their ability to compete at senior level.

Goalscorer: Iwan Meddins, Derek Wooding

All four Penarth sides return to action this weekend, with the first XI hosting third-placed Cheltenham in another top-of-the-table clash at Stanwell (1.45pm start). The second XI are on their travels once again, this time to face division leaders Swansea University, while the thirds also anticipate a tough encounter with De Cymru 2 pacesetters Cardiff Medics in an evening start at Tal-y-Bont. The fourth XI, meanwhile, join the Seconds in the second city as they face bottom side Swansea City at King George V Fields, where both Penarth teams are slated to start at 12.30pm.

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 ( for further information