Leaders Under Pressure Until Injury Strikes (Again)
By Kim Miles
Formby produced a solid first half away to leaders Wakefield, and were somewhat unfortunate not to hold on to their deserved lead to half-time, before a last-minute goal left the scoreline flattering their hosts.
Despite having lost Mike Davis to a chest infection late in the run-up, and starting with a squad of just 13, Formby started well, with a quickly-taken free hit from Josh Birtles allowing him to exchange passes with Will Miles
(who resisted the urge to break into a waltz, following his triumph in the Club’s “Strictly” fundraiser the previous evening – at least half the credit for which must go to his partner, Harriet) before releasing Felipe Davis-Guzman
into the circle, only to be foiled by a full-stretch tackle before he could get his shot away. Formby maintained the pressure as Andy and Ste Wright
took on all comers in the right-wing corner, resulting in a long corner from which their team-mates turned over possession.
A Connel Capper
aerial in the 5th minute was missed by a couple of defenders and ended up in touch on the left, from which the home side launched a quick break that Birtles broke up with a timely tackle. Encouraged by the hosts’ discomfort under the high ball, Capper tried another, which cleared them all and was controlled well by Davis-Guzman, at full stretch on his reverse stick. He proceeded to slot it home from 10 metres but the umpires had spotted that it grazed his arm as it fell to ground and the “goal” rightly didn’t stand.
Still Formby’s play made the home defence uncomfortable, and Andy Wright on the left found Davis-Guzman who carried the ball into the circle and showed considerable patience as he tried to manoeuvre into position to either shoot or win a short corner. Eventually, he tried to pick out Ste Wright
in front, but in trying to control the ball, he contacted a defender’s stick instead and the effort was fruitless.
Wakefield was able to get their first shot on goal just inside 10 minutes, as Capper appeared to be fouled but no whistle was forthcoming. Sam Birtles
made his first save of the day and Tom Hickson
cleared up the loose ball. Capper was soon testing the opposing defence with another aerial, this time to Toby Gladwin
, who controlled it well and laid it off to Birtles, whose effort on goal was deflected wide. From the long corner, Formby won a free hit in the 22, quickly taken by Miles who moved the ball the required 5 metres before he fired it into the circle, where Ste Wright
’s deflection was heading just inside the left post, before the ‘keeper did well to halt his momentum to the right and just get his right knee to the ball. Again, Miles carried the ball a short way before setting up another deflection chance for Ste Wright
, but his effort was deflected wide by an opponent’s stick (though it wasn’t clear how deliberate the intervention was).
Davis-Guzman was soon up to his tricks in the circle again, from another Capper aerial, carrying the ball well along the left baseline, before trying a shot from a very tight angle that the ‘keeper blocked. From the rebound/clearance Giles Hampson
carried the ball into the circle and its deflection off a defender’s foot earned Formby their first penalty corner. Unfortunately, the Formby routine suffered from a lack of precision and Capper was only able to manoeuvre into position for a reverse-stick strike which he failed to keep legally low.
Formby continued to have the bulk of possession, restricting Wakefield to the occasion break, which the defence dealt competently with. An incisive pass down the right from Hampson to Hickson saw the latter carry into the circle, where his pass to Josh Brooker
induced a rash tackle and a second penalty corner. This proved to be the first of three in succession, as Capper’s first effort was deflected away by a runner’s leg, then he made the ‘keeper work to block that attempt, before Brooker’s effort from the rebound was also saved by the ‘keeper, but lifted dangerously. The third saw Formby take the lead, as Birtles and Capper exchanged quick passes before the former’s flick fount the back of the net.
Sadly, Formby led for only a minute or so, as their goal came under immediate pressure from their hosts, apparently stung into action. Sam Birtles
made a series of excellent close-range blocks, before, from about the fourth of them, from a shot from his right side, he stopped the effort and the ball dropped by his feet, and he half-cleared it as the whistle blew. The umpire behind him gave a penalty corner for “obstruction by the ‘keeper” (presumably he’s lost track of the ball and assumed it had got stuck in Birtles’s kit (it clearly hadn’t, and he was on his feet throughout the save. The other official declined to help out (he didn’t seem to know why the corner had been given, and as he heard a Formby man, retreating to half-way muttering the it was never a corner, he actually agreed with him!
Wakefield produced a weak effort from the top of the circle, that seemed to have a similar effect on Tom Gooding, guarding the right post, as a slower ball at cricket can disrupt timing. He seemed to have the ball well in his sights, as he set himself to sweep it away from harm, but his timing was awry, and he watched, horrified, as it bobbled past him and gently rolled in to the goal.
Formby continued to enjoy the majority of possession, and a neat run up the right wing by Andy Wright took out two defenders before he moved it forward to Galdwin, whose attempted cross was blocked.
Thing took a turn for the worse with 5 minutes of the half left, as Gooding and Josh Birtles managed to get in each other’s way when trying to tackle the same man in their circle. Inevitably, this resulted in a penalty corner, from which Wakefield took the lead, when the stopped did his job before stepping in front of the ball, which had the effect of preventing Josh Birtles from getting near it at the recipient found the bottom left corner with a low flick. The umpires detected no obstruction and the goal stood.
A minute later Hickson put in a challenge near the Wakefield 22, and came down awkwardly on his right shoulder. This ended his participation in the match as he had to be ferried off to the (fortunately very nearby) A&E facility, where X-rays determined he’d broken his collar-bone in two places, and would require surgery to repair it. That put paid to his season – though he was fairly swift in pointing out that his drinking ability would not be affected!
Formby immediately conceded a penalty corner as they turned over possession from the restart, and Capper’s challenge in the circle caused the ball to ricochet onto his foot. Sam Birtles
blocked the initial effort, and when Wakefield offended in going for the rebound, the half was over.
The second half was notable mainly for generally pretty poor hockey skills from both sides, and much appealing for fouls (and, not particularly sportingly, cards most of the times Formby were penalised for anything. The remaining 12 players put up strong resistance as Wakefield inevitable enjoyed the bulk of possession.
A couple of short corners in quick succession were repelled, first by Josh Birtles getting out quickly enough for the flick to deflect off his shinpad, then the Wakefield attempt at a deflection on the right post being deflected in transit, and failing to reach its intended destination.
Another corner was awarded for a Hampson tackle at the top of the circle (appeals for a yellow card form the home defenders). This resulted in a re-award as Wakefield messed up their stop and the officials spotted something unseen by most of the players and the ball flew past the post. Sam Birtles
made a good stop with his right glove from the retake.
As Formby tired their forward forays became increasingly inaccurate, and resulted in even more pressure on their defence. Another penalty corner was conceded in the 62nd minute, which was blocked easily, and Brooker was fouled as he tried to bring the ball clear of his 22 – a decent case could have been made for a cord for breaking down play, but nothing was forthcoming.
Capper managed to fly a long aerial over 3 defenders, the last of whom should have controlled it it, but Ste Wright
hadn’t the legs to get to it as it passed harmlessly over the baseline. Wakefield did get their wish granted as two of their players were shown green cards as they struggled to put Formby away.
With time about to expire, Capper conceded a free hit in the 22 and the ball was payed into the circle where a home player got to it first and it eluded all the Formby defender and rolled fairly gently over the line. The final scoreline of 1-3 was harsh on a Formby side who had put up a spirited performance in difficult circumstances.
Whether they will have sufficient playing resources to see out the season is becoming doubtful. They will need everyone to stay fit, though Messrs. Brooker, Gooding and Long are all unavailable for the visit of Timperley next Saturday, in addition to Hickson, who joins Sean Friday and Rob Tinker on the long-term injury list.
Emergency recall may have to be issued to Sam Mackarell in New Zealand if things get any worse!