Having suffered a comprehensive defeat in their season opener, Teddy Hall looked energetic and keen to pass the ball around as they took on newly promoted Worcester. Despite winning two corners and a dangerous free kick in the first ten minutes, a significant lack of height compared to Worcester, especially in attack, left them with no early joy. A chance on the break for Blues striker Niko de Walden set the tone for the rest of the match; Worcester replying to Hall’s midfield dominance with quick fire offensives.
First blood should have been drawn as fresher James Hilton, fouled in the area, won the home side a penalty. Home captain Grant will clearly be disappointed at his resulting miss, but hugely encouraged that his team maintained concentration and kept Worcester largely boxed in for the next ten minutes. Last week Worcester’s keeper Adam Titchen saved a penalty and saw his side immediately respond with a goal, a familiar pattern at this level. It was the opposite case here as unrelenting Hall pressure was rewarded with an opening goal from Nick Marsh, who drilled low into the net from a free kick.
While Hall pressed and came close to increasing their well-earned lead, Worcester repeatedly looked menacing on the break, and levelled the game as de Walden eased past a defender to slot home. Hall replied almost immediately, with Hilton, easily the shortest man on the pitch, appearing from nowhere to nod home a corner kick practically unchallenged for 2-1 and challenge all notions of whether height advantage actually means anything.
The game became stretched and frantic as the first half drew on, and Worcester’s counter attacking style benefited from this as they won their first corner of the match and had a tentative penalty appeal turned down. Yet in Worcester’s box it was Hilton, the outstanding player on the pitch, who turned quickly to find Matt Clark in free space waiting to put the ball home and Hall two goals up going into the half time break.
The second half belonged to neither side and was more open, gradually becoming scrappy as the players tired. Worcester continued to cause trouble in attack, but the Hall defence gradually began to neutralise this threat, and appeared happier to defend deep. Hall then took their turn to counter attack and at full stretch Grant agonisingly hit the post. Worcester’s frustrating day can be summed up in the last three major incidents of the match, which served only to compound their woe. Firstly, Hall’s keeper spilt a shot, but it was his eagle-eyed defence who got to it before a Worcester boot could. Then, main threat de Walden was booked after a penalty appeal, apparently for diving, with little complaint. Finally they had a man sent off, again with little protest.
In fact as a whole Worcester can have little protest. Their attack caused Hall worry, but was ultimately too monotonous. Hall had more variety across the park, greater composure in the midfield and were deserved victors.
The last time these two teams met, in January 2009, Hall also won 3-1. That year Worcester were relegated, and Hall went on to win the Premiership. They visit defending champions Christ Church next week, after which we may be able to say a little more about how this season is likely to pan out.