Sale Mens 2nds 1

Whitchurch Mens 1sts 4

Whitchurch confirmed their promotion as champions of Division Four South this week with a confident away win over a strong Sale team who were hoping to grab third place on the final day of the season.

Led by captain Danny Foulkes, Whitchurch were looking just to play some decent hockey and enjoy it, with promotion already assured, and they set about business well.

After a busy first few minutes as both teams looked for a quick goal, the game settled into some assured skill and movement from both teams.

Paul Leigh had another strong game at the back, coming out early and making his usual diving saves.

The back three, with James Partington and Chris Ruscoe flanking Foulkes, were able to move the ball across at the back with confidence, and soaked up the pressure from the Sale attack.

Sale were unlucky not to get a couple of goals, with some good shots going just wide, or last touch deflections only just missing.

In the midfield, Sam Conway, Marcus Conway and Jack Barnes provided the width and options, and Joel Leese, Ben Kimberley, Tom Forster and Rob Chappell rotated well to control the middle of the pitch, dribbling round the Sale players before distributing the ball well to the wings.

First touches were more assured than in last week’s game, passes made it to their targets with decent regularity, and the pressure continued to build before Jon Chappell’s strong shot at goal was blocked by the goalkeeper, but the ball just fell at the keeper’s feet and Nick Cooper was on hand to crack it in.

With the Sale team looking for an equaliser, the pressure was on, but the Reds marked well and were able to regain control and got a second before the break.

A quick drive into the dee end in a cross was swept in on the reverse by Will Gilbert, continuing his impressive scoring record having only just stepped up to the first team.

The second-half was more of the same, with the game being finely balanced and Sale unlucky to nick a goal on a couple of occasions.

They had more bad luck when Ruscoe’s run down the right wing and into the dee ended in disaster as the cross was knocked into the goal by a defender attempting to clear it.

They did regroup, though, and threw players forward and caused an overload in the Whitchurch dee.

The initial shot was saved by Sturge, but the rebound was taken around the diving keeper and put away well for Sale’s first.

Sale were re-energised, and started to put together more attacks, but their right wingers found a roadblock in James Partington who had a solid game at left back, and tackled and blocked everything that came his way.

The Whitchurch right wing had much more success and Jack Barnes was able to get the ball to Cooper whose initial shot from a very tight angle was blocked, but Jon Chappell was ready for the rebound and finished it off nicely.

The final whistle came, and with it another decent win for a decent Whitchurch team.

As the champagne sprayed, the Reds knew they’d had a good season where teamwork had made all the difference.

Partington picked up player of the match award for some good work in defence, and the team picked up promotion to Division Three South having won by 12 points with Neston having lost to Northop Hall.

With several strong young players coming through, the future is looking very good for Whitchurch Hockey Club.