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.