WHILE the phrase is best associated with Frosties, there was nothing cool about the opening game of the season - save for the sublime finishing from the Bears.

On a day when the mercury was pushing 30, Penarth Mens Hockey 1st XI travelled to Cirencester to kick off the 2011-12 season, playing at the highest level in the club's history, following back-to-back promotions under the stewardship of Richard Baker.

With pre-season having coughed and spluttered like a Robinson Galaxy, early season injuries and a couple of retirements, preparations could hardly have been worse.

But despite the manifold impediments, spirits were high as the team made the first of many journeys east in the baking heat.

The team line-up had an unfamiliar look.

Mark Thomas, midfield terrier, filled the massive gap left by a pre-season hallux injury to Mark Harris in goal, if not quite managing to do the same with the kit.

Robert Walliams stepped across from his usual starting berth at left back to take the place in central defence of Mark Robinson, who has been put out to stud, with Peter Acton replacing the little-big man on the left flank.

The SET twins David Stevens and Sam Docherty completed the defensive unit.

In the boiler room David Tipping has rejoined the club having turned down a number of more lucrative offers. Talk of his Penarthian DNA being too much of a draw for the player has recently been circulating the wires.

Hopes are high that David will be an able replacement for Dr Richard Clarkson who has finally donated his body and mind to medicine (otherwise known as Penarth 2nds).

Chris Baker, Phil Lane and Simon Hebson completed the midfield quartet with Rhys Evans and Phil Langham spearheading the attack.

Despite the sweltering conditions the game started apace with both teams battling for midfield supremacy, although it didn’t take long for the Bears to take over, when a well crafted move started by David Tipping sent Chris Baker through on goal.

The young man who notched up a staggering 22 goals and 22 assists in 23 games was never going to miss and calmly slotted home a beautifully placed flick into the bottom left hand corner past the onrushing Jasper Carrot look-alike ‘keeper.

Penarth, it seemed, were back into their stride and continued to press with a couple of dangerous looking sorties into the opponents D.

It wasn’t long before the home team were back level, after a series of one-off defensive mistakes led to a close range finish that debutant goalkeeper Mark Thomas could do nothing about to tie the game at one apiece.

Would this early set-back be too much for Penarth? Was the step up in leagues too much for the young team? How much had the ramshackle pre-season taken out of everyone both mentally and physically?

All of those concerns were thoroughly put to bed, tucked in and read a night-time story with a cup of warm milk, when straight from the resulting push back, Penarth took possession of the golden snitch.

A few waves of the old man's wand and Phil Lane was delivering the sort of cross that any young centre forward would dream of. Chris Baker did what he did best and drilled the ball hard against the backboard to double his tally.

The boom that echoed around the stadium was unmistakeable; the floodgates were about to open.

Within minutes Penarth were looking to further extend their lead, Simon Hebson working his proverbial socks off ploughing his metaphorical furrow down the left flank, ably abetted by the ever willing Peter Acton.

It was Hebson that started the move that led to the Bears' third. Spotting a beautifully timed run by Phil Langham, Hebson, using all his financial know-how, threaded a ball through that was right on the money. Langham calmly shifted the ball on to Rhys Evans who, desperate not to fall too far behind to Chris Baker so early on in the season’s goal scoring charts, swept home from the top of the D.

The Bears were cruising. David Stevens, putting in the usual consistent level of performance, was regularly making strides up the right wing; Sam Docherty casually spreading play across the back line to both Rob Walliams and Peter Acton; with David Tipping looking like he had never been away in midfield.

Before long the lead had been extended to five with a second for Evans following more good work from Chris Baker, ensuring that his assist stats were not left wanting; a first goal of the season for captain Richard Baker who put life and limb on the line to snatch Evans’ goalbound shot at the back post, helping the ball in off his stomach from all of three and a half inches; and a fine finish from Evans, desperate to lay down a marker in the division.

Having made hard work of the simple pick-up, Evans decided to try to beat a defender with pace and skill. To the surprise of everyone in attendance, he managed this before smashing home a tremendous shot across the bows of the goalkeeper high into the far corner to complete a first half hat trick.

At half time Penarth were 6-1 up and looking good.

With only 35 minutes gone in the season the Bears were looking more like elephants huddled around the drinking hole looking for any available shade, while coach Danielle Jackson and captain Richard Baker laid down what they expected from the next 35.

The second half was a fiery encounter with tackles flying and verbals being jousted. What didn’t change was Penarth’s dominance.

Save for a few moments when Mark Thomas was called into action and the defence were asked to dig deep and contain the Cirencestrians, the flow of play saw Penarth on the front foot looking to further extend their lead.

With ten minutes gone, David Tipping picked the ball up some 30 metres from goal, brushed aside 3 tackles, moved the ball on to his reverse stick side and with the power and precision expected from a man with such quality dispatched the ball high across the face of the keeper.

Certainly the goal of the game and an early contender for goal of the season. Questions are already being asked as to whether Phil Lane, two times GOTS winner, can respond.

At 7-1 Penarth were truly playing with the handbrake off. Rob Walliams used the ball well and sent a high cross-field aerial that David Tipping somehow managed to contort himself to collect over his left shoulder at full pace.

It is these sorts of combinations that gave everyone watching hope that the season could be a fruitful one.

There was time left for Rhys Evans to get a fourth, reacting first to the deflection off the keeper's mask from another David Tipping effort to take the score to 8-1.

Evans and Tipping also had shots saved off the line, Chris Baker hit the post from a powerful run, Rhys Evans had a penalty corner turned on to the post by the opposition ‘keeper and Simon Hebson, Man of the Match, had what appeared to be a perfectly legal goal disallowed.

At full time Penarth were 8-1 winners.

No doubt there will be tougher tests in the coming weeks, starting with Weston-Super-Mare at home at the Bear Pit on Saturday. As always, spectators are welcome.

Gwent no match for Second XI

ON a rather warm October afternoon with conditions more akin to June (or perhaps not), the Penarth HC 2nd XI trundled out onto the pitch for their first outing of the season.

With several perplexed faces and a brief getting-to-know-you session before the game, things went as well as could be expected.

After the first ten minutes, it was fairly apparent to those in the Rob Davison Memorial Stand that it may take a few games for this combination of young and old to mature into a fine blend of something to savour, once allowed to infuse for a little longer.

Marshalled by Captain Birch, the mindset appeared to be on all-out attack as Gwent had very little to offer and any suggestion of a goal attack from the East Wales outfit was swiftly snorted out by Sbig, Graham and Nathan at the back.

The baritone notes of young Nicholas between the sticks ensured that all were kept on their toes.

The midfield was robust and with Click calling upon George, Tom and Sam to put in some serious leg work, he was able to create endless chances for James and latterly Dave to give the Gwent keeper a stern test.

A 3-0 win was well deserved and Penarth 2nds now face a tough test against Whitchurch this forthcoming weekend.

Let’s hope that both teams continue with the good early season progress.