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.