|Date||8 June 2016|
|Venue||Wolverhampton Grammar School|
|Result||D 2 - 2|
Old Wulfs welcomed Cannock to the Grammar School on a day that had seen biblical level rainfall just a few hours before the scheduled push back. Thankfully, the wet weather cleared in time, but left behind a humid heat that forced quite a few players to get fluids on board after only carrying the tennis nets to the side and putting their shin pads on.
Again, there were a couple of players unavailable that would have otherwise been selected. Captain Ben was stuck in Manchester, although turned up to watch half way through, and also Ablard had been due to make a first summer league appearance of the season but was struck down with illness. This meant, however, that youngsters Callum Nightingale and Ryan Harding got another outing with the first team as they look to impress selectors ahead of the regular season.
As the game got under way, Cannock immediately showed their quality with simple but effective pass and move hockey. They were dominating possession and Wulfs didn’t have a meaningful chance for at least the first twenty minutes, and not before Cannock managed the breakthrough. They won a penalty corner, and although there seemed to be a mistake in the routine, they managed to improvise and convert it for 1-0.
Shortly after, Wulfs won a penalty corner of their own, although Palmer’s drag was agonisingly cleared off the line. Cannock then continued to impose themselves, using their slick passing to work the ball up the right hand side of the pitch and around Luke in goal to score an easy second.
At half time, Wulfs were told to avoid immediately pushing forward with the ball and exercise some ball retention by looking for options backwards and keeping it from Cannock. This seemed to work, as Wulfs began to string some nice moves together, passing in triangles and moving off the ball. It was from one of these good passing spells that they managed to get the ball up the right wing and get away a shot that the keeper saved. However, the rebound off the pads fell into the path of Birch who calmly slotted home to get Wulfs back in it.
The game was now much more evenly contested, with both sides going close with chances. Luke Archer put in a solid performance and was able to stand up to several Cannock shots that could have easily gone in. But with about ten minutes remaining it looked as though Wulfs would be narrowly denied yet again, and Ashworth decided to vent this frustration by barging over a small boy for which he was swiftly yellow carded by umpire Chris Nightingale.
But cometh the hour n’all that. When Wulfs won a penalty corner, Palmer’s drag was again blocked by a defender and again Birch was in the right place at the right time and duly took his chance and scored, although not as neatly this time. His strike hit a defender’s foot on the line causing it to loop over the keeper’s pads and eventually into the back of the net to square the scoring.
Wulfs then resolutely held on for the rest on the match to win a hard fought and precious first point of the summer league.
Man of the match: Simon Palmer.