Redditch Mens 1st XI gave their promotion bid a huge boost on Saturday after conquering table topping Market Drayton 3-0 at home.

Market Drayton were coming off the back of a 16-0 victory the week before at basement boys Leek 3s and Redditch were aware of their impressive goal scoring record.

Early exchanges in the fixture were evenly matched and Redditch only managed to break the deadlock when Chris Thomas got onto the end of an Andy Billingham penalty corner strike to deflect the ball home for his 3rd goal of the season.

Redditch shocked their opponents as they doubled the lead before half time with Jacob Beard receiving the ball at the top of the D from the midfield before using superb skill to turn and beat 2 players before firing a reverse stick shot into the bottom corner for his 10th goal of the season.

At half time coach Wayne Beard encouraged more of the same and the team duly delivered as forward Dan Waite stretched the opponent’s defence by making runs into the corners; Dan Jakeman, Harry Williams and Mike Slater worked hard in the centre of midfield and Harry Saunders and Eugene Read defended well and offered an outlet as wing backs, moving the ball forward into the attacking corners fluidly.

Andy Billingham was voted man-of-the-match for the third week in succession as he and Adrian Young worked hard to keep the Market Drayton centre forwards clear of keeper Joe Cardy’s goal.

It was some fine individual skill that got Redditch their third goal as Pete Dawson drove into the ‘D’ and fired home to make it 3-0. Redditch then saw out the remainder of the game without much difficulty. The result was the first clean sheet of the season and means that the kingfishers are now only 3 points behind Market Drayton (who have 25 points), still in 2nd place in West Midlands Division 1 with 22 points. They remain level on points with Ludlow in 3rd (22 points) but give themselves some breathing space over 4th placed Stourport (19 points), 5th placed Bournville (19 points) and 6th placed Bromsgrove (18 points). The league now breaks for the Christmas break and teams return to action on January 12th 2019.

On Sunday, the Men’s 1st XI travelled to Ludlow to play in the England Hockey Tier 3 Championships – a national competition that sees the final held at Lee Valley in London in May 2019. This was Redditch’s first game in the competition for over 10 years and were playing in Round 2 after receiving a bye in the first round.

Redditch were prepared for an evenly matched game as Ludlow are currently level on points with the kingfishers in the West Midlands Division 1 league table. The 2 sides face each other in the league straight after Christmas. Captain Adrian Young and coach Wayne Beard handed 1st team debuts to youngsters James Browning and Jack Gwyer in this fixture.

Redditch had to absorb the majority of the early pressure as Ludlow looked threatening from the first whistle but it was the Kingfishers who broke the deadlock with a pacey counter attack involving Harry Williams who’s shot was eventually deflected into the net by a Ludlow defender.

Ludlow instantly hit back as the Redditch defence looked all out of sorts and the score was soon 1-1.

Redditch continued to struggle in possession as the first half went on and Ludlow scored another two goals to break clear at 3-1.

Redditch did manage to claw a goal back before half time after Harry Saunders showed great skill and composure to attack the Ludlow baseline and attempt a cheeky lob over the goalkeeper. The ball fell just short of the line and despite the Ludlow defenders best efforts to clear the ball, it was tapped home from close range by debutant Jack Gwyer. Half time, Ludlow 3v2 Redditch.

The second half didn’t see much of an improvement in performance as Redditch again struggled to clear their lines and put the Ludlow defence under any pressure, in fact, in a very rare occurrence, Redditch failed to win a single penalty corner. Ludlow however continued to pressure and the kingfishers were only kept in contention by some superb saves by man-of-the-match goalkeeper Joe Cardy before Ludlow were rewarded with another goal to make it 4-2.

It was only through another counter attack that Redditch managed to give themselves a glimmer of hope as Dan Jakeman broke through from midfield to score and reduce the deficit to 4-3 but it was too little too late as Ludlow held on to go through to the next round and knock the kingfishers out of the cup.

Captain Adrian Youngs thoughts for the first half of the season – It’s been a challenging first half of the 2018/19 season but I’m really pleased with how the team have applied themselves at training and in games to put us in the position that we are in. Our coach Wayne Beard has worked hard to keep us focused on some key principles and some of the youngsters that have come in to the team this year are building in confidence which is great to see. Our aim for the season is to achieve promotion and I am hopeful that if we show the same discipline and determination that we have shown in the last couple of victories over Bromsgrove and Market Drayton, we can make that aim a reality!

Mens 4s last game of the year Redditch struggled right from the start. A last minute stand- in put 10 players on the pitch as the whistle blew with the other two en route. Three goals in quick succession by an experienced midfield/forward combination left Redditch well on the back foot. Even the arrival of one of the missing players to make up the full side made little difference to a lacklustre performance. Two more goals left the side 5-0 down at half time.

They started the second half with a much improved attitude that showed itself in several attacking moves that just failed to improve the scoreline. There followed a spell of ten minutes when 4 players pulled up with injuries. All chose to stay on the pitch and Andy Mahon showed a great deal of fortitude in playing on with damaged shoulder muscles that left him unable to hit a ball. Despite valiant efforts by Simon Morris, Josh Checkley and Barry Fitzpatick in midfield and Alan Povey in defence the opposition proved too strong and a further 3 goals were conceded before the final whistle. This half of the season concludes with 4 wins and 6 losses.

Everyone looks forward to returning in the new year and improving on these results.

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