Seasiders leave town rock bottom
As yet neither team has found their form this season and prior to this Halloween encounter both teams were without a point.
Knutsford came into the game on the back of a heavy defeat and with several regular players unavailable. Cheered on by a vociferous crowd, the home side started brightly, passing the ball around with aplomb and denying the visitors any meaningful possession. Debutant Torrie was dominant at the centre of the home team’s defense as Colwyn struggled to make any in roads towards the Knutsford goal. In midfield despite a 6 year sabbatical, Vale bossed the right side setting up countless attacks whilst Allan was typically rampant on the left. In these early exchanges it looked like Knutsford had finally found a winning formula and opened the scoring with a short range effort from Power.
Despite having to make enforced changes in their lineup because of injury to their talismanic Captain Hodge, Knutsford entered the break worthy leaders.
In previous games Knutsford have struggled to sustain their performance throughout the second half and once again their opponents enjoyed a greater share of possession. Despite heroics from the back four of Price, Ward, Torrie and Anderson, Knutsford’s stopper McCoy was becoming increasingly busy. Following a quick break away Colwyn’s Emlyn Williams was allowed space and time in front of goal and brought the scores level with an easy finish.
In response Knutsford gallantly pressed forward and won a string of short corners but were unable to convert these precious set plays. In this passage of play both teams fought hard sensing the next goal would be decisive, Baddeley terrorized Colwyn’s defensive quartet but it was Colwyn who took the lead following a precise finish into the roof of the net from Gethin Williams.
Knutsford sought in vain for an equalizer but it was to be the seasiders’ day. With seven minutes remaining Jestin Williams found the back of Knutsford’s goal to wrap up the victory and three precious points.
After the game Captain Hodge was obviously proud of his players but bitterly disappointed reflecting “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” Knutsford need to break their losing streak when they entertain Springfields UCLAN next week at Westfield Drive.
Meanwhile the Mens 2nd XI travelled the opposite way to play Colwyn Bay 2nd XI and took the first of their two trips to Wales in as many weeks, hungry for a change of fortune. A number of consecutive losses against all the top of the table sides have left the team languishing at the tail end of the table. Colwyn Bay 2nds seemed on paper to be a side of mixed form, so Knutsford were hoping to take advantage wherever possible and bring home a result.
The game started briskly, and it was Colwyn Bay that dominated play as the much changed Knutsford side adjusted to their new players and positions. The pressure on Knutsford’s defence (Holah, Jones, Drake and Riley) was relentless, with the team rarely escaping from their own half, and after 20 minutes Knutsford were a despondent 4-0 down.
Four goals too late Knutford started to make a game of it. The midfield of Evans, Pedlow, and international visitor Hilrerda stepped up their game, relieving some of the pressure on the defence, and the whole team were able to push up the pitch. It was a superb individual run from Central defender Drake who initiated the move leading to the first Knutsford Goal. Drake took the ball to the far left corner of the pitch, passed round the defender to Evans, the cross pitch ball finding the central Pedlow, who picked out 2nd teamer debutante Cunliffe perfectly positioned on the by-line. The move was a carbon copy of the training exercises from Coach Armstrong’s trusty manual… Cunliffe’s pass giving Hickson the opportunity to hammer the ball home and restore some pride.
The second half was a much more competitive affair, with Knutsford continuing to soak up the pressure, however with a further 2 goals conceded, even a late consolation goal from Jones couldn’t restore the damage to the goal difference. The game ended 7-2 with man of the match being awarded to midfield battler Evans.
Next week the team travel along the same road (the A55, rather than the metaphorical outcome!), but just a little further to mid table Llandudno, where hopefully fortunes can be reversed, and Knutsford can start collecting points for Christmas.
Finally, the Mens 3rd XI played part one of a double header against Division 8 rivals Bebington on saturday. Hopes were high of a first win of the season against the merseyside strugglers who are fielding two teams in the same division this season.
Last minute call ups to the 2nd XI meant Knutsford were again forced to field an inexperienced side. The presence of Sam Cunliffe up front, Rich Holah in midfield and Paul Ford at centre back was missed as Knutsford found themselves woefully short of numbers and experience during wave after wave of Bebington breakaways.
Knutsford did not make their usual bright start to the game. Bebington exploited weaknesses down the left and right wings and produced two simple early goals. Stand-in keeper Dexter was left exposed as the Bebington strikers had acres of space to slot the ball home.
Knutsford put aside this early disappointment and began to make some progress down the right hand side of the pitch. The returning Si Marsland linked up well with Karl Stanier, Gavin Merrill and George Nairn to force two short corners. Some fluidity returned to Knutsford’s attacking play but accurate final passes were lacking and Bebington proved a greater threat with long balls out of defence that lead to quick counter attacks.
With five minutes of the first half remaining, Bebington were awarded a penalty flick for an infringement by Adam Walker in the D. The flick was put away despite a despairing dive by Dexter and Knutsford soon yearned for half-time and a chance to reassess and regroup.
Captain Hope made changes to the team formation with Martin Baker and Gavin Merrill moving into the centre of midfield to bolster numbers and add some extra aggression to forward play. This move paid off and within ten minutes of the restart Knutsford had breathed life into the match and restored the scoreline to 3-2. First, Henry Pass thwarted a Bebington move and released Baker who ran (yes….ran) past three defenders and unleashed a shot from the edge of the D which the Bebington ‘keeper could only parry into the back of the net. Some doubts about whether the shot was taken inside the D but the lack of a video ref meant Baker’s unquestionable honesty was not challenged! Either way, the records show that this was Knutsford’s first goal of the season at the sixth time of asking.
With Bebington down to ten men after a yellow card for dissent, Knutsford exploited the player advantage and a slick move down the right hand side saw Marsland’s excellent ball into the D brilliantly converted by Merrill. 3-2 and suddenly Knutsford saw a glimmer of hope.
Unfortunately, the only ‘Glimmer of Hope’ from this point on was the flashing blade of Steve Hope as he was forced into several swashbuckling tackles to stop Bebington extending their lead. Steve’s total disregard for the impact of astro turf on skin meant that he finished the game looking like an extra from ‘Platoon’. If he needs any more plasters on his wounds he’ll soon turn into a Mummy.
Knutsford’s challenge faded as legs grew weary and Bebington began to mount pressure on Dexter’s goal. Two excellent reaction saves kept the scores close until the final ten minutes. Similar to the opening exchanges, Knutsford allowed the Bebington strikers too much space in the D and they capitalised late on to make the final score 5-2.
In what is proving to be an erratic season Knutsford now have just one point from six games. The gulf between Knutsford and the rest of Division 8 is purely one of experience and squad consistency. The calibre of young players – such as Ollie Lasham, Will Cunliffe, Sam Cunliffe, George Nairn, Henry Pass and Ben Cashmore – is higher than previous seasons but they are still one or two years shy of the experience needed to excel in adult hockey.
Next week, Knutsford face Bebington 4s at home. The strength of the 5th XI side that played on saturday was surprising given the poor results they have recorded to date. We hope to see 11 different players take the field on saturday for a 4th XI side that has only 2 more points now than the 5th XI.
Knutsford’s sights must now also be on the three upcoming ‘6 pointer’ games against struggling Bowdon, Macclesfield and South Cheshire. To ensure survival this season these three games may prove critical. Next week all players should ensure they can come back to the clubhouse for a post-match drink, pizza and banter. -‘m buying!! We’d also love to see a few supporters pitch-side again to boost morale. Many thanks to the hareem (plus Hadrian ‘Pimpdaddy’ Caldwell) who gave us great support this week.
DOD – Karl Stanier (….for being Karl) and MOM – Steve Hope (swashbuckling)