Whitchurch Men’s 1s 3

Chester Men’s 5s 1

Whitchurch were looking to ensure league safety as well as get a victory against a Chester team they drew within the previous fixture. It was to be another game-of-two-halves with the first half being made far more difficult by Whitchurch's own efforts: again composure on the ball and movement off it were not what they could or should have been, and they struggled to find any fluency.

What the Reds did do was grind out a goal, with Tom Forster passing a sideline ball to Nick Cooper who slipped it across to Ben Kimberley who put it into the top right corner.

At the back, Whitchurch managed to keep every one of the many short corners out, but it was attritional hockey. It wasn't helped by James Partington taking an accidentally-raised ball to the jaw and needing treatment, but one thing Whitchurch is much better at this season is using substitutes well, and the team restructured smoothly.

Captain Alex Fry pulled no punches about what needed doing at half-time with a stirring team talk, meaning the second half was good in every way that the first half had been poor.

The back row of Airan Jones, Dale Seymour, Fred Egerton, Forster and Partington improved the marking to cut out most attacks before they developed. Marcus Conway, Fry and Jack Barnes in the middle took control of the pitch, breaking the attacking circles at free hits and driving the ball up the pitch and, critically, their forward passes were now finding their targets.

Up front, Sam Conway, Pip Jones, Craig Hockenhull, Kimberley and Cooper were causing the Chester defence endless problems with number of shots just wide or saved by the excellent keeper, including a shot by Jones that almost crept between his pads.

The pressure finally told, with a drive down the right by Sam Conway getting passed to Forster who put a high ball across the face of goal where Cooper perfected an overhead smash to bury it in the net.

It was not all one-way traffic in the second half, with Chester rallying well and Paul Leigh was instrumental in keeping the score line in check, including blocking and then clearing an attack despite it being three-on-one as the defence were beaten and struggling to get back.

Sturge was again the saviour as a drive into the dee by Chester ended with a flick to the right of the goal but an outstretched toe was enough to divert it past the post.

Chester did manage to get on the scoreboard with a speculative ball forward being only partly blocked by Partington, directly into the feet of Seymour, and the Chester forward didn't wait for a whistle for the short corner but pulled off a skilful flick over a diving keeper.

But Whitchurch restored their lead with a well-worked short corner routine as Barnes drilled a shot through a group of players for Whitchurch's third.

At the end of the game, the result was what Whitchurch needed, even if the first half wasn't one to remember.

Chester were decent opposition and made the Reds work for their win, but the way Whitchurch came back for the second half and the application they showed was much appreciated by both the team and the supporters.

They have their last away game for the season against Oxton Men's 4s next week.

See this week's Herald for more hockey reaction and reports.