Bridgend made a short trip down the M4 to a mid table Swansea A team who had lost their last game and a high-spirited Bridgend team who were buoyed by previous performances. The game started with some good possession from the Ravens with some slick stick to stick passing and a new found love of transferring the ball around the back they had the Swansea team chasing shadows. 10 minutes in and all was going smoothly until a misplaced ball from the Ravens backline allowed their midfield to step in and take possession which the efficiently moved wide and into the D to win a penalty stroke. This meant Bridgend had to push higher to try and create more chances, leaving spaces in behind for Swansea to exploit. Great movement up front from Osian Jones and James Griffiths kept the Swansea defence pinned back allowing a strong Bridgend midfield of Paul Jones, Mike Hodges, Jon Rubery and Rob Evans to move the ball effectively around the pitch. A quick counter attack from Swansea earned them a short corner which after an initial great save from the Ravens shot stopper Adrian Hibbert took a 2-0 lead. Further pressure from the Ravens front two earned a number of short corners which were narrowly missed by the Ravens number one dragflicker Rhys Owen. A mistimed tackle in the middle from Rob earned him a 2 minute sit down leaving ten men to persevere. More misplaced and mis-controlled passes from the Ravens put pressure on themselves and when a misplaced pass was brilliant intercepted by the Swansea midfielder who played a simple ball through to the striker who tucked it passed the despairing dive of Hibbert. Bridgend rallied to score with Paul jones managing to bundle the ball over the line in the dying minutes of the game but all was in vain as the final whistle went leaving the Ravens to contemplate what could have been, with some key talking points going into next weeks game.
Bridgend 2nd’s v Saint’s 6th’s – Cup
In the first competitive game after the Christmas break, Bridgend ladies were able to take a full squad to Treforest which helped with a couple of the team just coming back from injury.
Alison Hibbert took on the important role of Manager, which freed up Jo Poupon to focus on her own performance on the pitch.
Eric Hughes was in goal with Pat Richards supporting, backs Liz Pearce, Bev Sainsbury, Pauline Harrison and Bray Thomas were the strong rear guard, with Angharad Kitchener, Jo, Sherry Shawcross, Michelle and Lauren Hancock and Chessie Jarvis a fearsome midfield and Clare Jarvis, Amy Paice, Ella Roberts, Beth Kitch, Izzy Edwards and Maia Riley the forward squad.
Bridgend started the game at a pace and spent the first 10 minutes within the Saints’ 25 area. Shots on goal came hard and fast from Jo, Amy and Michelle, with Maia directing a rebound ball onto post from a fine strike from Jo. The midfield were passing the ball swiftly through to the forwards and Michelle, Chessie and Sherry combined to make some fine strong runs at pace down the wing. It felt like only a matter of time that the ball would end up in the net.
However with the Bridgend defence and midfield being caught high against the run of play, in one of the only sections of play the Saints attacked in the first half, they managed to get behind Bridgend’s defence and with a decent strike scored.
Bridgend’s head didn’t drop after conceiving and were immediately back in attack mode, with Beth, Lauren and Ella taking the ball into Saint’s D a couple of times, but just failing to make a clean strike at the net. With the support of the midfield, Bridgend managed to keep up the pressure in the Saint’s half and finally which led to a fine strike from Jo which beat the keeper but was kept off the line by a Saint’s back, however Maia managed to get her stick onto the rebound to even the score.
The second half saw the Saint’s step up their attack, but the Bridgend back’s were up to the pressure with Bev, Pauline, Liz “last man standing” and Eric keeping Bridgend in the match. Angharad’s made some fabulous push out’s taking Bridgend from defence straight back into attack as she managed to find Izzy and Beth high in the Saint’s half. A couple of excellent individual pieces of play from Ella and Lauren were really unfortunate not to come to more.
The Bridgend attack had several more chances in the second half with Amy weaving the ball through to Bethan and Izzy on more than one occasion and a strong performance from Jo, Michelle, Chessie and Sherry kept the play coming back to the forwards, however we were unlucky and didn’t manage to put the ball in the net again.
The game ended in a one all draw – which meant it was going to be decided on nail-biting penalties strokes.
Jo, Angharad, Chessie, Maia and GK Eric stepped up to take the penalties. Bridgend won the toss and Jo put the Saints in first. For many in the Bridgend team this was the first time to feel the pressure of penalties in a match situation.
Saints scored the first penalty and Jo replied by scoring a fine strike for Bridgend making it equal, Eric was unlucky on the Saints second take as she managed to get a toe on the shot but it went past her into the net, Chessie didn’t strike the ball cleanly which led to a save, however the third Saint striker also had a miss hit which Eric easily saved, Angharad stepped up and topped the ball on her strike leading to another save, 2-1 to Saints.
On the Saints 4th strike Eric was up to the challenge making another great save, Maia stepped up and made a clean lift which just passed the keeper, making it 2 all after 4.
Eric saved Saints final shot and then with help from Angharad and Maia to remove her keeper kit, Eric only had to score herself to win the match for Bridgend but after a clean strike hit the post.
So down to sudden death and the tension was palpable, Eric rushed to get kitted up again and managed a fantastic save from the Saint’s strongest striker, so it came down to Captain Marvel Jo to score to win the match. Up Jo stepped to the spot and looked supremely confident, hit the ball cleanly and the ball sailed past the Saint’s keeper into the back of the neck. Bridgend win through to the next round.
It was a supreme effort by every member of the squad with those not on the pitch playing just as an important role to those on the pitch today. Every squad member was responsible for well-deserved victory.
Bridgend 3s 2 Cardiff Medics 1. A top of the table clash for promotion chasing Bridgend saw us up against the Cardiff Medics. They turned up with an average age of about 22 so we knew this would be tough. Captains team talk was work rate and possession hockey with a high press to give them as little time on the ball as possible. The first ten minutes was spent in our half and we had to defend well as medics piled forward with some useful players up front using their skills to win a short or two. Eventually this led to a goal for the Medics. However, we were not disheartened and we started to grow into the game. Paul Davis was using his strong hitting to bypass the Medics midfield straight up to Steve Murphy who was holding the ball up well. It was one of these passes that gave us our first chance. Murph was put through and from 8 yards out put it just wide. Not long after we got our reward for the hard work we were putting in. Debutant Steve Murphy slotting the ball home. We reached half time at 1-1. We knew second half they would come out flying at us but we had intentions of our own and Ross Allen scored from a very tight angle to make it 2-1. Steve Murphy then had to go off injured and we only had an injured player on the bench so it was all about game management for the last 20 minutes. Wave after wave of medics attacks were repelled and we restricted them down to one or two chances which Dan Leyshon saved with aplomb. The umpires finally blew for full time to end a tremendous match for Bridgend. Every player put in a shift to beat a very strong medics team. Best performance of the season.
Bridgend Men’s C 1 – 2 Gwent ‘Christmas
Haruki Murakami in his work ‘Kafka on the shore’ explains it thus: “Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads – at least that’s where I imagine it – there’s a little room where we store those memories.” TS Elliott in ‘Four Quartets’ is a little more esoteric: “Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden”.
Both are, of course, referring to lost opportunities and missed chances – and the mighty Bridgend C, playing once again at a packed fortress Pencoed, have plenty of opportunity to reflect upon this in the coming week.
It is always a good test to play Gwent who play excellent hockey throughout their team hierarchy and this game would be no exception. Both sides fielded a host of promising youngsters in their line ups, combined with the usual sprinkling of grizzled veterans desperately trying to summon aged limbs into action.
Bridgend have had a long break since their last league game and it showed in the first 20 minutes as they struggled to retain possession and disrupt a confident Gwent team who rightly took the lead. This seemed to rather wake Bridgend up and the youngsters on the roster began to assert their fitness and mobility terrifically well. A short corner was awarded to the Ravens and they struck viper-like when young Dan was the first to react to a partially saved shot. One all and game on.
The capacity crowd rose to acclaim the debutant Bimms as he strode onto the field toward the end of the first half having enjoyed his 13th birthday during the Christmas break and he smashed into a first tackle at senior level to rather set a standard.
Others picked up on this bravura demonstration and the combination of Louis and Daffyd in midfield began to really threaten the Gwent resolve, but Gwent scored a goal after a succession of short corners were awarded to them. It always felt that Bridgend needed just one good chance in order to level matters but Murakami’s words were to have the final word as Bridgend fluffed the 2 which came their way in the final minutes and that was that.
Tired limbs and bodies dragged themselves from the field of play but positives were taken. This was a very good second half performance and with a little more sharpening of the cutting edge, goals will surely come. Credit to Chris Bimson for his stirring photography though it must be said as one sucks in the tummy during play that the camera does not lie. The gym and a lo-cal diet beckons for many!