SUCH are the vagaries of fixture schedules and form, each Penarth Hockey Club side found itself engaged in games with teams from the upper reaches of their GoCrea8 League divisions last weekend.

Penarth 5-1 Cheltenham ‘A’

With just a single point to show from their previous two games, the first XI went into Saturday’s encounter sitting in fourth place in the GoCrea8 Championship, one place below the latest visitors to Stanwell. With a closely-matched pack chasing division leaders Ashmoor – who only defeat came to the Bears last month – Cheltenham held a one-point advantage over the Bears, adding extra tension to the occasion.

The game started even with both teams having chances to take the lead, but it was the visitors who eventually struck first, taking advantage of their first set piece to convert a penalty corner after ten minutes.

This seemed to shock Penarth into finding another gear and they quickly went up the other end and won a first penalty corner of their own. When an equaliser was denied by a defender’s body on the line, the home side upgraded to a penalty flick, but Ben Croxall’s weak shot was comfortably saved by the Cheltenham ‘keeper and the English side remained in front.

Penarth didn’t let the miss affect them, however, and continued to launch an onslaught on the Cheltenham ‘D’. The pressure proved too much for the visitors and, after some good team interplay from the defence, Croxall’s cross towards the lurking David Joyce was deflected into his own net by a hapless defender to bring the sides level.

Spurred on by the equaliser, Penarth continued to press forward and quickly added a second goal, which proved to be the pick of the game as Chris Baker picked the ball up in his own half and beating no fewer than seven Cheltenham players before firing an unstoppable shot past the helpless ‘keeper. It was the sort of goal Baker had specialised in during Penarth’s recent promotion seasons, but which had been harder to come by in the Championship, and seemed to proved extra impetus to the home side, who had further chances to add to their tally before the break, only to be denied by the woodwork and some good goalkeeping.

Turning around with a slim 2-1 advantage, the Bears knew that getting the next goal would likely deflate the spirited Cheltenham side, and the breakthrough wasn’t long in coming, as Andrew Willemite stepped up with another goal of the season contender, beating three opposing players before smashing a reverse stick shot high into the net, leaving the ‘keeper little chance to move let alone attempt a save.

With Cheltenham now having to chase the game, play opened up as the second period wore on, and both teams had chances to score. With Adam Putt in fine form and producing some key saves to keep the visitors at bay, the game got more antagonistic but, with cards being dished out to both sides, it was Penarth who continued to find the net, scoring twice more as Croxall completed a hat-trick to atone for his earlier penalty miss, benefiting from some slick work from his team-mates that left him with two easy tap-ins.

The game eventually finished 5-1 to the Bears, who pocketed a vital three points to leapfrog their opponents into third place and remain in the hunt as the season moves towards its halfway point.

Goalscorers: Ben Croxall (3), Chris Baker, Andrew Willemite

Swansea University ‘A’ 6-1 PENARTH ‘A’

After a very promising result against Cardiff Medics the previous week, Penarth’s second XI faced an equally daunting trip to Swansea University, but remained confident that they could take some points from the students, who had posted a 100 per cent record through their opening five games.

The opening encounters saw both teams come close to breaking the deadlock, James Kidby twice testing the Swansea ‘keeper in the early stages, but it was the students who were to make the breakthrough on the 15-minute mark, and quickly doubled the lead by netting contentiously from a penalty corner.

Undaunted, Penarth continued to press and eventually pulled a goal back on the half-hour, as excellent work from Kidby and Sam Salisbury set up a chance for David Watkins to tap home from close range. The Bears even had a chance to equalise before the break, winning a penalty corner as the clock wound down, but, after the corner routine broke down and the students looked to switch play to the other end, Sam Docherty earned himself a ten-minute visit to the sin bin for a cynical challenge that snuffed out the counter attack before it started.

Despite being short-handed, Penarth were able to hold the students off until half-time and knew that, if they could continue to weather the storm whilst down to ten men, they could still take something from the game. However, two quick goals in the opening exchanges of the second period saw the Vale side fall into a 4-1 hole and, although they continued to push to get back into the game, their efforts opened the game up and it was Swansea who capitalised, adding another couple of goals to see the game end 6-1 in their favour.

Without a win since the first game of the season, and only a draw -albeit against a strong Medics team - to add to their points tally in the meantime, Penarth now need to take full advantage of a run of games against the teams around them in De Cymru & The Marches 2 to prevent their poor start getting considerably worse.

Goalscorers: David Watkins

Cardiff Medics ‘A’ 6-1 PENARTH ‘B’

Having struggled all week to raise a team, third XI captain James Davies worked some magic to take a competitive side to Tal-y-Bont to face a young Medics team that had averaged eight goals a game on their way to topping the De Cymru Two standings.

With a initial start time that clashed with the Wales-Australia rugby international, the Bears were then made to wait until close to seven o’clock before the game could start, but the delay did not seem to dampen their enthusiasm as, for the first 20 minutes, they went toe-to-toe with an energetic student side. As the veteran duo of Rob Harrison and Usman Hameed Dhami held court in midfield, the Bears were able to launch attacks of their own, with the father-son combination of Scott and Dan Munro Morris the primary recipients as Penarth ensured that the game wasn’t all one-way traffic.

Sadly, however, having seen chances go begging, Penarth’s steel was eventually broken as a stolen midfield ball was quickly worked into the Bears’ ‘D’ before being slapped home. The Medics quickly doubled their lead with a more fortunate goal, as Rhys Meddins was fouled while attempting to clear up after a spot of pinball in the area, allowing the students to bundle the ball across the line.

As expected, Penarth refused to buckle, and kept creating and playing the correct passing game, starting with Craig Llewellyn finding outlets from the heart of defence. These, in turn, repeatedly set up debutant forward Lewis Ingram, and the youngster showed real flare in beating his marker and either finding another green shirt or creating a shooting opportunity of his own.

With their confidence high, however, the Medics were to score another goal just before half-time to make it 3-0, and Penarth were forced into a strategy change during the interval, deciding to take the game to the student side by playing much higher up the pitch in all phases.

With Graeme Jones and Richard Cousins providing pacey outlets down the flanks, the defence was able to feed Dhami, who looked to push further forward to create chances for the youthful Penarth strikers. This, however, ultimately left gaps at the back and captain Davies frequently faced his personal Alamo, with three or four student forwards rushing at him. Although the inevitable happened, and the Medics increased their advantage, the Bears eventually pulled one back as the younger Munro Morris converted from a reworked penalty corner routine, but it was but brief respite for the Vale side, as the students restored their four-goal lead with another controversial strike.

When another Penarth possession broke down, and the effects of chasing the younger Medics squad took their toll, stand-in ‘keeper Matthew Birch was left with little chance of denying the hosts a sixth goal as the ball was passed around him and into the back of the net with just minutes on the clock. The 6-1 scoreline was a fair one, even if the margin slightly flattered the students against a Penarth side that featured seven changes from the previous week.

Goalscorers: Dan Munro Morris

Swansea City ‘C’ 3-1 Penarth ‘C’

Having ventured east to Gwent the previous weekend, Penarth ‘C’ were on the road again, travelling to face their second city rivals in a mid-table De Cymru Three encounter between two teams level on points.

The day did not start well with the ‘C-Siders’ reduced to a bare eleven due to late withdrawals through to illness and injury, and, having to start with no fewer than five central defenders in the line-up, the Bears adopted the 'Christmas Tree' formation that had made them a hard side to beat last season. Ironically given the personnel involved, the attacking potential of the system came to the fore despite the absence of a recognised target man, and Penarth controlled possession but were unable to turn their dominance in to goals, despite a string or penalty corners.

In light of the profligacy, the inevitable happened when, in a rare foray into the Penarth end, Swansea produced a moment of brilliance to convert a reverse stick shot from the edge of the ‘D’, and the sides turned around with the more dominant a goal in arrears.

Now chasing the game, Penarth reverted to a more traditional formation, with Elys Johnson flourishing in an unfamiliar role that earned him yet another man-of-the-match award, but a somewhat dubious penalty corner proved the Bears’ undoing as Swansea doubled their lead. The visitors continued to dominate, and it was another mark of their misfortune when, against the run of play, a speculative ball into the ‘D’ was deflected off a Swansea stick and looped into the top corner of the net.

With time rapidly running out, Penarth went on all-out attack to try and salvage something from the game, and were rewarded when veteran centre back Ian Brookfield calmly converted Johnson's through ball at the second attempt to finally put the ‘C-Siders’ on the score sheet. It was too little too late, however, and Penarth again found themselves losing a game they could - and should - have won.

Goalscorer: Ian Brookfield

All four Penarth sides will be in action this weekend, with the first XI back on the long road south as they visit the University of Exeter in search of another win to help close the gap to top spot in the Championship. The second XI also face student opposition, taking on Aberystwyth University at Stanwell (1.45pm start) in a must-win game for their season. The thirds and fourths both take on Whitchurch opposition, with the former opening proceedings at Stanwell (noon start) and the latter facing a third straight away game, this time at Treforest.

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.