Stafford Hockey Club first XL played host to a Solihull and Blossomfields team who going into the game lay second in the table having only lost one game. Ethan Sweeney was back in the team after deservedly earning a call up from the seconds. Daniel Rennie though left Dan Howe heartbroken as he was not there to complete the “attacking squad” after annoying Aldi had made him work on a Saturday, despite his pathetic attempts to do otherwise. Charlie trotter took Daniels place upfront, Ed Wills simply telling us to play with passion; giving nothing but 110% for the team effort as we prepared to face the fearsome force that was Solihull and Blossomfield.
The game commenced in usual fashion with Stafford gaining inroads into the oppositions defence, equalling Solihull and Blossomfield in their passing, movement and charisma to win in the early stages of the Game. Piers Wooler beat players whilst Ben Hollands skilfully broke down play. Mike Watley lofted the ball up towards Charlie Trotter allowing him to run at the opposition and link well with Dan Howe forcing their defence to intervene at the final second just as Dan was about to shoot. The game shifted just as Stafford conceded, following the opposition retaining possession they forced the ball down the right flank, which once there was fed into the semi-circle where a player shot. Gareth Minton saved the ball but the deflection was hit in by another player. Stafford pushed back though with Richard Bukka and Simon Parnell staying strong at the back, Andrew Barnett also remaining firm in front of them; though he did pick up a green card for continuous stick tackles and stick blocks for which he didn’t realise he could do. James Faulconbridge holding onto possession so that he could send Elliot Glennon down the exposed left side on a piercing attack. Stafford were to concede another goal just before the break after a period of heavy Solihull offence. Elliot Glennon had made a tackle but the ball fell to a Solihull player who struck the ball into the D for a tap in on the far post. Going into half time the main question was would Stafford maintain composed and keep their heads up given the situation; or would they lose self-control and go snorkelling willingly into the depths of defeat?
The answer, initially anyway was to save-face and fight back against the hardened odds. Ethan Sweeney took his place at the bottom of the midfield diamond and distributed the ball brilliantly whilst breaking up play on many an occasion. Probably why he won man of the match, in spite of Piers Woolers best efforts who went on one of his classic beat every player runs just to mess it up at the very end, typical Breadcakes. Good link play between James and Ethan saw Ben Hollands get onto the ball on the edge of the semi-circle. He slithered his way inside for a shot which grazed the post. Solihull and Blossomfield overcome this pressure winning themselves a short corner half way through the half. The ball found its intended player who had a free shot to the left of Gareth’s post, he was never going to miss from such a close range. At 3-0 down the Solihull tide was somewhat unrelenting. Though it is noteworthy to point out that despite facing inevitable defeat the Stafford players never gave anything but 110%, never faltering in their efforts to get something from the game. Solihull scored a fourth from a short-corner, the player struck the ball from the top of the D at tremendous pace, beating Gareth on his right side. One of Solihull’s players was sent off late into the second half giving Stafford some deserved momentum; respite after a long period of defending. For that ten minutes we dominated. Ben found Dan, who then passed to Charlie who in turn found Ethan. But we couldn’t force a goal. Solihull were to get a fifth goal on the break despite being a man down, the ball was hopefully fired into the semi-circle and a Solihull player deflected the ball into the goal from close range. Stafford despite having already gone snorkelling managed to get a goal back from a short-corner. It came to James Faulconbridge on the edge of the semi-circle who passed the ball to Piers Wooler resulting in a tidy reverse push finish into the bottom corner.
The game finished 5-1, a score line most of the Stafford players thought was unfair in consideration of the manner in which we played. There was only Finchfield were we believe we didn’t put on a good show, every other game we fought to the bitter end. The only thing Stafford need now is a winning formula that will turn good performances into winning results, or a little bit of luck to get us by. Either way a few positives can be taken from the game; Richards Bukkas week wasn’t ruined but he “can’t pass”, Piers Wooler is now called Breadcakes and owns the communal shower gel and Simon Parnell is Karl Pilkington.