Whitchurch Men’s 2s 0

Chester Men’s 6s 6

Whitchurch welcomed high flying Chester 6s to SJT on Saturday but were under strength after call-ups to the first team, and featured a mix of youngsters and 'back-to-hockey' graduates.

Whitchurch set out with a game plan to avoid being four or five goals down by half-time. The young forwards and midfield players were encouraged to think more about what was behind them, rather than stay forward looking for goals and the team would set up with a defensive midfielder to screen the defence.

For large parts of the first half the plan worked brilliantly. Although Chester took the lead, midway through the half, from a short corner that was initially well stopped by Gareth Teggin in goal, Chester found chances hard to come by.

Paul Humphries was excellent in the deep midfield role and was ably assisted in screening the defence by Joe Faithfull and Joe Coburn breaking up play in the Chester midfield.

The Whitchurch defenders, Wyn Morris, Richard Leigh, Doug Buckeridge and Brendan Coburn backed up the midfield and put in a succession of good tackles and interceptions to thwart the Chester attackers.

Chester did have the majority of possession and territory during the first half, but Whitchurch were able to provide a threat of their own on the counter-attack.

Ethan Gresty and Sam Appleby combined well with Euan Morris to create attacks down the right flank, and Euan linked well with Joe Coburn and Luke Beddow to provide threat down the left. With Jacob Buckeridge and James Page also finding good positions in the dee, chances were created, but shots were stopped well by the Chester keeper, or good crosses just evaded the finishing touch from a Whitchurch stick.

After an excellent first half the 2s suffered two significant blows just before the half-time whistle. It was a frustrating to concede a second goal from a well-worked short corner routine with the last play of the half but losing Paul Humphries to injury had a real impact on the match. At only 2-0 down, Whitchurch had achieved what they’d set out to do by staying in the game.

However, Chester’s much more experienced side ruthlessly exploited Humphries absence in the second half. The younger players were unable to offer the same protection to the defence and Chester began to be more of a threat in the Whitchurch dee.

The defenders still performed admirably, but the ball was now coming straight back into the dee and Chester piled on the goals to go 6-0 up. Undeterred, Whitchurch went on the offensive. Wyn Morris somehow found himself in the Chester dee and shot wide.

Joe Coburn hit a post from a short corner and Jacob Buckeridge had a reverse stick shot cleared off the line in the dying moments of the game.

Again there were positives to take. With Humphries screening the defence in the first half, Whitchurch were much more solid in defence. Certainly, Paul’s absence in the second half had a big impact both in terms of his own play, but also the influence he was having on the younger players in midfield.

Next week the Men’s 2s travel to Denbigh 2s.

*See this week's Herald for more hockey reports.