Bridgend traveled to Bath for their first game following the Christmas break and with a fully fit group had high hopes of gaining a result. Early exchanges saw an even game develop, but a lucky ricochet saw the opposing centre forward break and beat Hibbert to put the home team one up. Several excellent plays saw Tim Hodges go close. Bath went two nil up following a hugely questionable stroke. With half time approaching, excellent play down the right led to a sure far post tap in but somehow the ball went agonisingly wide.
The second half started with a few positional changes and Bridgend took the game to Bath immediately. Holioke ran the game from midfield and chances came thick and fast, but none could find the vital scoring touch. The defensive unit dug in and provided a platform to go forward, with some excellent saves made by hibbert in goal. Try all they could, the game ended 2 nil to Bath.
A hugely improved performance and one that gives confidence for the remaining 10 games.
Bridgend A 4 – 3 Stroud
The first game of the New Year saw the seconds welcome high flying Stroud to fortress Pencoed. The visitors began confidently, crafting several opportunities, but finding no way past the all action Hawas in goal. Eventually the pressure told and Rees gave away a penalty stroke for an illegal block on the line. Having consulted veteran Brooks, Hawas pulled off a game changing save.
Bridgend immediately turned the tables and began to apply serious pressure on the Stroud team. The Jones boys combining well up the left before transferring to the right to attack through Rubery.
Tudball, Rosser and Arnold started to make serious inroads into the opposition D before Owen found the back of the net to give Bridgend the lead.
A rapid transition from defence to attack initiated by Captain Sensible released the Jones’ again, this time Osian fed the ball through to his father to double Bridgend’s lead.
Half time came and went, and Stroud returned to the game, a deflected short corner strike, another penalty stroke and a questionable kick in saw the Bridgend defence breach three times in ten minutes. Little AJ, Old Man Rees and sideshow Collier holding firm for the remainder of the game.
Frustrated by falling behind, Brooks added his weight to the Bridgend attack and combined with Anthony to bully their way up the pitch, the evergreen Williams added pace to the right to win another short corner. This time the rebound fell kindly for Owen to get his second.
With minutes remaining Bridgend worked the ball out to the industrious Arnold, deep on the opposition base line, he bumbled his way to the D before unleashing a wicked shot from an unfathomable angle, the Stroud keeper only moved to retrieve the ball from the back of his net.
A superb Captain’s performance was only topped by man of the match Hawas between the sticks.
Gwent ‘C’ 5 – 1 Bridgend ‘C’
In the epic film ‘Waterloo’ (they don’t make ‘em like that anymore!), there is a moment during a ball held for the English officers before the battle when a grizzled despatch rider bursts into the ballroom. He reports that Napoleon’s army is on the move and appears headed toward Waterloo. General alarm / excitement rapidly spreads and the fragrant Virginia McKenna, playing the Duchess of Richmond, asks the Duke of Wellington (a very smooth Christopher Plummer) whether she should instruct the orchestra to stop playing and dancing to cease. ‘Certainly not’, replies the Duke, ‘all ladies shall complete their dance obligations’. The British didn’t go into battle with officers wondering what might have been…
Similarly your correspondent was once fly fishing in the middle of the picturesque River Ogmore (casting up stream with a dry fly, of course), when a coarse individual appeared on the river bank adjacent and proceeded to cast a heavy spinning lure (I know, but the stocks were abolished in Bridgend some time ago) within 6 feet of the wading Wilks without so much as a ‘by your leave’. Harsh words were exchanged before the individual went on his way, accompanied by a special constable who had been summoned.
The above 2 incidents highlight that there are socially accepted norms to follow in life which help everyone to get along with a degree of grace. In hockey at the lower levels of league representation one might, for example, enquire after the welfare of an opposition player who has just been smashed on the ankle with a misplaced pass. Or one might congratulate an opponent for a particularly fine tackle.
Bridgend travelled to Gwent knowing that Gwent is a fine team of youngsters, all very well coached, who have been learning the game since leaving the womb. They would be a demanding challenge.
And so it proved.
After some excellent early Bridgend possession, Gwent’s running and skill levels proved almost overwhelming for the Bridgend defence which conceded 3 goals.
To compound a rising sense of injustice the evergreen Jack Steer then controlled the ball with the effortless instinct of a 70 year old before walloping it into the net. The Gwent umpire blew his whistle ….. to signal half time and deny the goal. Arthur Wellesley would have been immensely unimpressed. The preservation of Bridgend’s discipline and closed mouths was admirable.
Truthfully Bridgend had been mugged but hadn’t really put in much of a first half performance, the ‘goal’ aside.
Harsh half time words roused Capt Schofield’s troops and a much better second half performance ensued. Cliff Harrison in goal was sensational, making a series of remarkable saves. Barnaby Millgate and Jack Hayes began to grow in defensive confidence and Jon Catton began to assert some authority up front.
Michael Wilks’ penetrative runs and crosses were matched in impact by the determination of effort on display and Bridgend had several chances to score – but couldn’t. Gwent scored a couple of good counter attack goals but Bridgend finally scored themselves after another incision by Wilks resulted in a short corner from which the Captain blasted an unstoppable shot.
There were handshakes afterwards and a general atmosphere of ‘well played’, but the afternoon had certainly been affected by the social faux pas moments and there were more than a few Paddington hard stares – particularly in that the second half was timed at nearly 40 minutes! Snuff was not to be shared…