1st Team Match Report vs Solihull Blossomfield

Solihull Blossomfield 3 – 0 Stafford
Men of the match: Ben Hollands & Andy Barnet

Stafford travelled to Solihull Blossomfield for their first game of the season, a place they have come in previous years and won on three consecutive occasions. Unfortunately they couldn’t make it four as an industrious Blossomfield side made Stafford pay for their mistakes.

A new 3-2-3-2 formation and a number of new faces made it a different looking Stafford team and they started reasonably well, having a good share of possession. However, Blossomfield soon got on the ball and got forward in an effective direct style. They won a short corner after Stafford gave the ball away and this was expertly dispatched into the left top corner, beyond goalkeeper Dave Trotter.

Stafford again struggled to keep the ball and it wasn’t long until the Blossomfield attack overloaded Stafford’s defence, breaking into the circle and firing it at the Richard Buka’s feet. Another short corner was this time deflected through Dave Trotter’s legs. 2-0.

After the break, Stafford played some better hockey with passing improving. Ben Hollands worked hard in midfield and Andy Barnet provided some much needed height in yet another new position up-front. It was his running and clever positional play that created some space up-top but Stafford weren’t able to create any clear-cut chances.

As Stafford pushed hard for a goal, they were left exposed on the break and Blossomfield made it 3-0 with a decent break and tidy finish. Stafford kept pushing for a goal but it never came. There is certainly room for improvement but it won’t be getting any easier when they play Coventry Sikh Union at home next Saturday – 1pm start at Beaconside.

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End of Season Awards Night

It was a fantastic evening last night as Stafford Hockey Club celebrated the end of season in style. Here are the winners of the awards.

Club Player of the Year: Mike Wymer

Club player of the year, Mike Wymer. Presented by Dennis Wall, Club President.

President’s Award: Dave Parr

President’s Award: Dave Parr for all his work in securing planning permission for a pitch at Riverway. Presented by Dennis Wall, Club President.

President’s Award: John Sinclair

President’s Award: John Sinclair, for all his work over the years as fixtures secretary and running the fathoms. Presented by Dennis Wall, Club President.

Young Player of the Year: Will Trotter

Will was unable to attend the evening.

1st Team Player of the Year: Ed Handley

1st team player of the year: Ed Handley. Presented by Andy Barnett, 1st team vice-captain.

2nd Team Player of the Year: Jack Hodkinson

2nd team player of the year: Jack Hodkinson. Presented by 2nd team vice-captain, Mike Wymer.

3rd Team Player of the Year: Paul Taylor-Grime

3rd team player of the year: Paul Taylor-Grime. Presented by Steve Paling, 3rd team captain.

4th Team Player of the Year: Josh Williams

4th team player of the year: Josh Williams. Presented by Jack Fudger and Rikki Deller, 4th team captain and vice-captain.

5th Team Player of the Year: Tom Deakin

5th team player of the year: Tom Deakin. Presented by Gary Varga, 5th team captain.

Fathoms Player of the Year: Joe Mullor

Fathoms player of the year: Joe Mullor. Presented by John Sinclair, fathoms captain.

1st Team Match Report: Leamington 0 – 2 Stafford

Saturday 3rd December. 1.30pm
North Leamington School, Leamington, Warwickshire

Leamington HC 1st XI 0 – 2 Stafford HC 1st XI

Goals: Dan Rennie, Charlie Trotter
Man of the Match: Dan Rennie

Stafford travelled to Leamington on Saturday 3rd December for their furthest away league fixture of the season. Leamington, were bottom of the table with no points from their eight games but were out to prove that they could cut the mustard in this league. They started well, with a disciplined defensive game that broke down Stafford’s attacks and allowed them to try and punish the away team on the counter attack. Despite some early probing, Stafford couldn’t manufacture any clear-cut opportunities and it was in fact Leamington who had the first proper sniff at goal when a fast attack led to a ball being played in from the top of the circle. Dan Howe in goal was quick to the floor to smother and the ball was spirited away to safety.

Despite this early scare, Stafford were soon back on the offensive and some good play from top-scorer Charlie Trotter won a penalty corner. The ball came out to Ed Handley on the left of the circle who struck the ball hard along the floor. Saved by the goalkeeper, the rebound came to captain Ben Hollands whose shot struck a Leamington player on the line: penalty stroke. Ed Handley, who has scored his previous two penalty strokes this season saw his shot well saved by the impressive young goalkeeper who was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from his team-mates. Unperturbed, Stafford kept going and five minutes from the end of the first half, managed to break the deadlock when Dan Rennie’s reverse stick strike took a big deflection and bobbled under the keeper to make it one nil.

After half-time, Leamington kept at it with some dogged defence and hoped to catch Stafford on the break. However the tightest defence in the league managed to snuff out every attack, Mike Wattley on the left particularly impressing. At times Stafford were certainly guilty of trying to force opportunities playing into opposition hands and seeing this, coach Ed Wills encouraged the team to create some width, and to get the ball to young Will Trotter on the right. This tactical adjustment started to create space and the second goal finally came after some good work from James Wild who won possession in the midfield and exploded forwards. The ball was slipped to man-of-the match Dan Rennie who, with consummate ease, took it round two defenders and played it to Charlie Trotter who converted with a first time open-stick strike into the bottom corner.

After that, Stafford looked for more goals but none came. For the Leamington players, they felt that this was their best performance all season and Stafford were somewhat mystified as to how such a fit, organised team can find themselves pointless going into the Christmas break. They will surely pick up points in the New Year and hopefully it will be enough to keep them up.

1st team match reports vs Ludlow and Ashby

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.

RB

1st Team Match Report: Bloxwich 2 – 2 Stafford

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.