Stafford Hockey Clubs First Xl travelled away to Lileshall to face a Market Drayton side who not only has bested us in our last game but where also gunning for promotion. Captain fantastic Ben Hollands was unavailable following his altercation with a rock whilst cycling, leaving Dan Howe in charge. Marshy (Aka Ron Burgundy) made a first surprise appearance of the season at right-half to replace the otherwise occupied Coli Bishop.
Within the first minute Market Drayton was awarded a short corner which was converted through a low drag flick to Gareth Minton’s right. Stafford looked unsettled to begin with, never really getting into the flow of the game; often being caught out of position with their backs to goal. Needless to say Ed Wills was furious on the side of the pitch. Fifteen minutes in and Market Drayton got a second goal, the ball was played to the right side where the player managed to get into the D where he crossed from a tight angle. Unfortunately for Stafford the ball was deflected into the Net by none other than Simon Parnell, producing a low reverse stick finish whilst attempting to stop the ball. Stafford though weren’t going to give up so easily, great work from Ethan Sweeney and Dan Howe down our right flank resulted in a low tap in from two yards, sounds simple but the one-two was time to perfection. Piers Wooler was evacuated to hospital with a large cut over his eye following on opposition short corner. The ball had deflected off his stick and up I to his eye. This bad news was doubled when Market Drayton scored their third goal of the match after Stafford had lost possession in the centre of the pitch. The ball was passes majestically into the D where their striker who had scored the first goal lay in wait. He could all but miss from five yards and produced a thunderbolt of a finish which couldn’t have been saved. Stafford just couldn’t seem to quell the oncoming storm and conceded a fourth after Gareth had made a save, it came out to another player who slotted the ball home. Stafford didn’t go into the break three down though and got a goal back courtesy of a Charlie Trotter penalty flick which was expertly taken into the top left corner. This was awarded following Ethan Sweeney’s shot which was saved off the line by a Market Drayton foot.
The second half wasn’t much better for Stafford who due to being two behind needed to be aggressive, though due to Piers being hospitalised we only had the eleven men. Market Drayton as a result were able to penetrate further into Stafford’s back line, forcing a multitude of saves from Gareth. Eventually Stafford broke under the pressure and let a cheap goal in at the back post, two Market Drayton players were allowed to play the ball between themselves on the edge of the D. This was followed by a low cross which found the opposing player, who was unmarked and produced a sporadic finish since he had miss hit the shot. The half didn’t get much better for Stafford as Andrew Barnett was also hit on the eye which temporarily side-lined him leaving ten men on the pitch. Even when Market Drayton had a player sent off for flooring a Stafford player we couldn’t capitalise. Market Drayton were to score one more goal to make the final result 6-2, following a short corner the ball deflected off a Stafford stick where it fell to a Market Drayton player. He smashed the ball through Gareth’s legs from the edge of the D, the ball had come through a sea of bodies, leaving Gareth unable to make a save.
Stafford left the pitch demoralised and exhausted, fair enough Market Drayton played outstanding hockey; however there are some major things that Stafford needs to work on. At this stage in the season all we can do is try and keep our heads high and play every game on its merit, if we don’t believe we can stay up then we are already relegated. Let’s hope that Ben Hollands will get better and be able to play again, and that we can win another game allowing Andrew Barnett to shave.