Penarth Hockey Club 1st XI maintained their rich form by hammering another six goals past west country opposition, this time with City of Bath the hapless victims as the Bears continued to rebuild Fortress Stanwell.

Penarth Hockey Club 1st XI maintained their rich vein of form by hammering another six goals past west country opposition, this time with City of Bath the hapless victims as the Bears continued to rebuild Fortress Stanwell.

Penarth 6-3 City of Bath

Penarth welcomed City of Bath to Stanwell knowing that, despite their relatively low league position, the opposition had already caused some major upsets in the GoCrea8 Championship.

Keen to build on back-to-back victories over Cheltenham and Exeter University, and maintain their pursuit of mid-season leaders Ashmoor, the Bears were fully focused on gaining all three points, while adding to their positive goal difference margin, and started brightly, moving the ball around the pitch with pace and precision.

The combination of early possession and pressure eventually led to a full team move which presented Penarth with a first scoring chance, Ben Croxall duly despatching the penalty corner to make it 1-0. With the breakthrough made, a flurry of goals followed, and the Bears quickly found themselves three up, first as Croxall converted from the penalty spot after Chris Baker was cynically fouled while taking a shot, and then when good work in midfield saw Andrew Willemite steal possession to spring a counter-attack.

David Joyce turned his man and rolled the ball into the path of Laith El-Khatib, who ‘skilled’ another defender with a turn before firing a pinpoint across the face of goal to the waiting Willemite. Having initially won possession for his side, the midfielder completed the move after following up his pass by finishing smartly into the top corner for the second home game in a row.

Establishing an early lead seemed to have a negative effect on the Penarth side, however, and they switched off soon after, allowing Bath to gain in confidence and begin moving the ball around the pitch, eventually claiming two quick-fire goals to leave the game more evenly poised at 3-2.

The shock of conceding twice was enough to galvanise the Bears though and, having regained their composure, also re-established a more comfortable cushion as ‘goal machine’ Willemite reacted first to a penalty corner coming back off the crossbar to volley home and send Penarth into the break with a 4-2 advantage.

The second half proved to be a more even encounter, but Penarth’s finishing soon allowed them to move 6-2 ahead. Chris Baker was first to add to the tally following some good work from Tom Haran, who claimed an assist with a pinpoint 40-yard pass, before Jamie Wheeler - making his home debut for the 1st XI - made it three goals in two games for the side with a smart back post finish after a right-sided build-up from Aaron Fulton-Brown and Jack Jopson.

Penarth being reduced to ten men gave Bath a brief glimmer of hope, and they capitalised to make it 6-3 from a penalty corner, but the home side – and the versatile Lewis Beedle in particular - defended well thereafter to see out the game without conceding another goal.

The victory, Penarth’s sixth in nine games so far this season, keeps the side in second place in the standings, and in touch with leaders Ashmoor with a game in hand that will unwind on the final league weekend before the Christmas break.

Gwent 3-1 PENARTH A

Penarth side travelled to Cwmbran hoping to build on their comprehensive victory against Aberystwyth University, knowing that they could not allow their mid-table rivals – including their hosts – to pull too much of a gap with the first half of the season drawing to a close.

The Bears started well, creating the better chances in the opening stages, and comfortably looked the better side until a controversial yellow card for captain Andy Strong reduced the visitors to ten men. It was not the first time that Penarth had been on the wrong end of that decision, much to the bemusement of both sets of players, but they weathered the storm and remained in the game until the final few minutes of the half.

While down to ten men, Gwent exploited this to full effect to take a 1-0 lead into the half-time interval.

Penarth knew, on the basis of their first half performance, that they could stage a comeback in the second period and again started very brightly, with Phil Lane driving straight to the Gwent by-line to earn an early penalty corner.

Although that was squandered, the Bears nearly equalised on a couple of occasions, through a Chris McCarthy reverse stick effort and Ollie Burland’s reaction to a deflected penalty corner, but the inability to break through, combined with the high press being employed in search of success, ultimately proved their undoing.

Having gone two down after a smart reverse stick finish from the top of the ‘D’ left goalkeeper Scott Fulton-Brown with little chance, insult was quickly added to Penarth injury as the visitors had another player yellow carded, this time as Lane was sent to the sin bin when an initial green card was upgraded to yellow for appealing against another controversial decision.

Again, the Bears resisted while a man down but, as they pushed for a way back into the game, they were undone by a rare breakdown in communication at the back, allowing Gwent to chuck an aerial ball over the last line of defence, finding a forward completely unmarked in the 23 before a smart finish made it 3-0.

Although Gwent were now on the flattering end of a lopsided score line, and with time running out for a comeback, Penarth continued to chase a breakthrough goal. And were eventually rewarded with a consolation effort when Burland had a shot stopped on the line by a defender’s foot, allowing Sam Docherty to dispatch the subsequent penalty flick. It was too little too late for the Vale side, however, and despite creating the better chances after switching to three men at the back, there would be no addition to the score before the final whistle, leaving the Bears perilously close to the relegation zone with just two fixtures remaining in the first half of the campaign.

Goalscorers: Sam Docherty (pen)

PENARTH ‘C’ 2-4 Neath ‘A’

The 4th XI entertained early season pacesetters Neath ‘A’ at Stanwell - and faced a side vastly different to the one from the away fixture played during Storm Brian as Neath bolstered their side with returning senior players.

Expecting a challenging, physical encounter against a much more experienced team, the young Penarth side struggled to deal with the visitors’ abrasive style in the opening quarter, and some clinical finishing from the few chances Neath were allowed meant that the hosts turned round facing a three-goal deficit despite playing the more attractive hockey.

Neath’s first chance in the second period came from a penalty corner, and immediately saw them extend their lead but, rather than folding, Penarth showed their mettle and proceeded to dominate the remainder of the game, with the excellent forward line of Lewis Ingram, Zayn Zaman and Iwan Meddins causing significant problems for the Neath defence.

As Penarth began to dominate, the visitors upped the physical nature of their game and it took some strong umpiring by the experienced duo of Colin Crayford and David Gale to keep the confrontation from boiling over into something more unpleasant.

Penarth's dominance was also eventually rewarded with goals from Ifty Khan and man-of-the-match Meddins but, despite creating numerous chances in the time remaining, the ‘C-siders’ ultimately found that they had left themselves too much to do and ended up on the wrong side of a 2-4 scoreline.

Putting the result aside, the excellent hockey played by the young Penarth players underlined the promise for the future already on display this season, a testimony to the aim of the side to develop these younger players for the futur