Saturday 26th November
Stafford 5 – 0 Ludlow (West Midlands Premier League)
Sunday 27th November
Stafford 1 – 3 Ashby (England Hockey Vase 3rd Round)
It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for Stafford as they returned to the top of the West Midlands Premier on Saturday and exited the England Hockey Vase in the third round on Sunday.
Saturday saw a comfortable 5-0 victory against Ludlow. The Shropshire team, who had travelled a long way, were missing key players due to suspensions and injuries. Despite Ludlow calling up some impressive youngsters, Stafford had too much composure and firepower and in the end ran out easy winners. The scoring was opened by the in-form Dan Rennie who despatched a powerful shot from the top of the circle early on in the first half. Ludlow tried to get into the game but could not get their passing going; Stafford managing to frustrate ex-national league player James Pratt with aggressive pressing in their own half. Stafford pulled two ahead when a James Wild shot was deflected in by Charlie Trotter and a third came from Andy Peatfield, a welcome return for his first game of the season, from a scrappy penalty corner.
In the second half it was more of the same with a further two goals. The first came after the industrious Andy Barnett robbed the ball from Ludlow’s fullback, feeding Charlie Trotter who slotted home. A man of the match performance from Barnett was rounded off with an unstoppable deflection high into the roof of the goal from a James Wild through ball. Barnett has now scored in the past four successive league games taking his total for the season to six and will be pushing hard for player of the season.
On Sunday, Stafford faced a significantly sterner task against Ashby in the England Hockey Vase. The Derbyshire side who are unbeaten this season brought a young, fit, hungry team and started brightly putting pressure on Stafford’s players in all areas of the pitch. The pressure paid off when Richard Buka, playing at fullback lost the ball cheaply, the Ashby attacker driving forwards and slotting the ball past goalkeeper Dan Howe from the top of the circle. Stafford managed to grab one back through a penalty corner and then sat back into a half court press to try and contain the opposition. However, Ashby’s tidy passing and running off the ball created problems and soon they were in the Stafford circle again, managing to tuck away a rebound through the goalkeeper’s legs. In the second half, Stafford kept battling away but just could not find an opening against a well organised defence. With 15 minutes to go, Ashby struck the final nail in the coffin that is Stafford’s cup run; breaking into the circle down the right and powering home from a tight angle. So this was not to be the season for cup glory but Stafford have had a good run and good luck to Ashby in the next round.
Saturday 19th November
Bloxwich HC 1st XI 2 – 2 Stafford HC 1st XI
Goals: Andy Barnett x2
Man of the match: Dan Howe
On Saturday Stafford made the short trip down the M6 to Bloxwich for a top of the table clash that saw them come from 2-0 down at half time. Stafford only made one change from their last league game; a like-for-like swap bringing the experienced James Gillingham for the recently emigrated Giles Rowden.
Bloxwich started well and Stafford allowed them time on the ball, defending deep, hoping to soak up some pressure and beat the opposition on the counter-attack. However within ten minutes, Stafford were behind. Some crisp passing across the just-thawed surface lead to a hit into the circle, wrong-footing the defence and leading to an easy finish into the bottom right hand corner.
Stafford then had to break from their deep lying tactic and looked more comfortable pressing the opposition. However some more decent build-up play brought Bloxwich some penalty corner opportunities, the third despatched efficiently with a drag flick high away to goalkeeper Dan Howe’s right hand.
After a positive, optimistic half time team talk Stafford started the second half brightly and were able to impose their own passing game on the opposition. Space opened up on the flanks allowing the spritely Mike Wattley on the left and Will Trotter on the right to get forward to support the attack. Despite some good hockey Stafford were unable to break through the normal channels but had a lucky break when Mike Wattley’s powerful straight pass into the circle was inexplicably missed by the defender allowing Andy Barnett who put in an impressive circle-to-circle display to deflect the ball into the net. Again Stafford pressed, Bloxwich defending deeper and deeper and the equaliser came with 15 minutes to go after some Dan Rennie’s wayward reverse stick shot following some intricate skills was again deflected in to the net by Andy Barnett for his second.
In the final quarter, goalkeeper Dan Howe earned his man of the match award making a string of top quality saves to keep the score level keeping out Bloxwich with a one-on-one reaction save followed by a smart stop with his shoulder. The game petered out after that but Stafford will be encouraged by the nature of their fight back against a good quality side.
On Saturday 26th November Stafford entertain mid-table Ludlow HC, 1pm at Beaconside.
Stafford HC 1st team retain top spot in the MRHA West Midlands Premier Division with a comfortable 3-0 win last weekend against strugglers Kings Heath HC.
In truth it could have been more but Stafford were happy with the result and bouncing back after last week’s loss to Market Drayton HC. Things were fairly even in the early stages, Stafford were content to size up their opposition who proved comfortable on the ball and had a good passing game.
Stafford then got into their stride, spreading the ball out wide and then attacking the circle on mass. Kings started to make mistakes and Stafford won a penalty corner after good work from Will Trotter. His brother Charlie took full advantage as he deflected the ball into the goal after a great pass from Ed Handley.
After that Stafford piled on the pressure, a great pass from James Wild to Giles Rowden, saw the latter lay the ball onto Charlie Trotter, he beat the goal keeper and fired the ball in on the reverse stick.
Kings Heath then sat back and there was no further scoring before the break. After halftime, Kings started to get into the game. A bit of defensive frailty saw Stafford concede a number of penalty corners, they were well broken down by Richard Buka and Dan Howe in goal. Kings Heath started playing an aerial game but their chances were limited.
Stafford grabbed their third after Dan Rennie beat his marker, his shot was well saved by a very good goalkeeper but the rebound was put in by Andy Barnett. That was it for goals, Stafford felt they should have had a penalty stroke after Charlie Trotter was upended in the circle the umpire thought otherwise. Wild burst into the circle on a couple of occasions but shot wide.
A great result but Stafford felt disappointed that they had not scored more, next week they have a blank fixture in the league but face Nuneaton HC away in the England Hockey Vase on Sunday.