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.