Defeat on the road for Belper HC

Wakefield 4

Belper Hockey Club Men’s 1sts 0

Belper made the journey north for their latest fixture in the England Hockey National Conference North on Sunday against Wakefield Hockey Club.

Wakefield were looking to consolidate their position in the league and Belper looking to add to their points tally.

The previous fixture between the two sides yielded six goals and a point apiece earlier in the season.

With both sides looking to move forward, it promised to be an exciting fixture.

The Nailers travelled to the game with a squad depleted with absentees and fitness doubts over a number of players.

Strikers Ben Walton and Nick Morris were unavailable through work commitments and illness respectively.

Midfielder Steve Batten was also unavailable due to a ski trip while Mark Lamb passed a late fitness test to make the starting line-up.

The absentees allowed coach Duncan Woods to call up Alex Robey and Ash Blakemore into the squad, rewarding them for their good performances in training.

The Belper side that took to the bright blue “smurf turf” for a lengthy warm-up was able to enjoy the new facilities that have made Wakefield the envy of many clubs.

The starting line-up for the game saw Sheratt, Cassidy and Lingeswaren across the front with an amended midfield of Ebbage, Kitchen and Blackwell across the middle.

The defence of Hawkes, Lamb, Bullock and Inshaw lined up in front of Callum Welch, making his debut in goal.

Belper started brightly with the front three generating a couple of early opportunities but they were unable to get an effort on target.

The midfield battle was a spicy affair with Wakefield’s game plan to harry and hassle the Belper midfield through a very high work rate. Wakefield earned the first penalty corner after a turnover led to a quick counter-attack.

Wakefield ran a very slick routine, setting up with two stoppers and flickers. Their routine has been well-rehearsed, allowing Oliver Stoddart to fire home into the left hand side of the goal from his first effort in the sixth minute.

This fired Belper into a response and Belper were almost instantly rewarded as Sherratt made an excellent run off a Blackwell pass.

He was able to beat the covering defender and fire a shot at goal. The Wakefield ‘keeper made the save but the rebound was deemed dangerous and Belper earned their first penalty corner. The Belper routine was not as slick as their opponents’ but some quick thinking from Blackwell almost saved the situation as he fired an effort across the goal that passed inches past the far post and Kitchen’s outstretched stick.

Wakefield were under some pressure and were limited to long balls from defence bypassing their midfield, in order to pressurise the Belper defence. From one such ball, a small error led to Wakefield gaining possession at the top of the circle and drawing a foul.

With the umpire signalling for the advantage before blowing for the corner, the Wakefield striker was able to get a shot off but it was of poor quality and the umpire awarded the corner. This frustrated the Belper players, who felt this was a double advantage. From the corner, Stoddart fired a flick high and to the right of the goal.

The ball hit Mark Lamb, who was the covering defender on the line, with a sickening thud that drew gasps from all parties. The game was immediately stopped so treatment could be provided.

He recovered to leave the field of play and would sit out the remainder of the game. To add insult to injury, Stoddart was able to dispatch the resultant penalty flick to extend his side’s lead and his personal tally for the afternoon in the 19th minute.

With Lamb off the pitch, Blackwell was moved into the back line and Inshaw replaced him at right midfield. Ash Blakemore was introduced at right back. Belper continued to battle and were rewarded with three more corners.

On this occasion, Hawkes’s strike was well saved by the home ‘keeper but the two following chances were missed. From open play, Cassidy drew a fine save from the home ‘keeper after sterling work from Palmer and Sherratt.

In the 24th minute, Wakefield grabbed a third goal and secured victory through another Stoddart penalty corner that also sealed his hat-trick. This was tough on the Belper players as their performance was not reflected in the scoreline.

Coach Woods was emphatic at half-time that his charges should continue to pass the ball and play aggressive hockey despite the scoreline.

The second half was a much improved performance from the Belper side with numerous corners being won but without the final reward.

It was also a better defensive performance with Blakemore, Blackwell, Bullock and Inshaw taking the plaudits in reducing Wakefield to a very limited number of chances.

Wakefield only added their fourth from a final penalty corner in the 70th minute after Blackwell was penalised after an excellent tackle. Stoddart was once again the scorer, completing a very successful day for himself and his team.

Some excellent midfield link ups with the forwards was also on display for Belper and this will hearten the squad as they enter their final three games of the season against Doncaster, Durham and Bowden. Coach Woods was reflective after the game: “We didn’t play too bad but we were outplayed in the set-play department by a well-drilled battery.

“If we can get our full squad back and get our own corners firing more effectively, then we will be more competitive.”

Belper take on Doncaster next Sunday in their penultimate home fixture of the 2012/13 season at the Meadows.