North Notts Hockey Club continued their fine form with a relatively easy 7-3 victory over a poor Berkswell & Balsall Common side on Saturday.
Without Marc Johnson and Matt Kanalas, Notts were forced to look to their new strength in depth and recalled Neil Collins while Rhys Jepson, who has impressed in recent weeks, retained his place in the side.
Notts were struck a blow in the warm up when they lost youngster James Latta through a back injury, reducing Notts’ starting squad to 12.
However, they had no problem settling into the game and within the first minute were awarded a short corner. William Butler’s powerful strike clipped a defender’s stick and flew into the goal, above the backboard, leaving the keeper stranded.
Notts then asserted their dominance and camped in the Berkswell half.
On 15 minutes one of the best moments of the game saw Matthew Cooper dribble the ball out of defence and rampage into the Berkswell D, but his thunderous reverse strike crashed onto the crossbar and away to safety for the home team.
Notts didn’t have to wait much longer for their second goal as a William Butler strike fell to full back Anthony Clay. He slipped a square ball to Allen Butler, who made no mistake.
Notts were now in full flow and three minutes later Jason Barton incredibly missed an open goal, his deflected shot creeping along the goal line and out of play.
The elusive Notts third goal came on 28 minutes when a Berkswell defender blocked a William Butler effort with his foot.
Despite appeals from the home side the umpire’s decision was never in doubt, nor was the finish from William Butler.
The game was all but over in the dying moments of the first half as Notts raced into a 5-0 lead with a quickfire brace of goals.
William Butler completed his hat-trick after great work from the tenacious midfielder Josh Singleton and his fourth of the game was slotted home right on the half-time whistle.
The second half started slowly for Notts as they tried to consolidate their emphatic lead.
This led to a mini revival from Berkswell, who pulled a goal back on 40 minutes, youngster Rhys Jepson caught napping at the back and allowing his man to sneak in.
The goal seemed to kickstart Notts again, who restored their five-goal advantage within a minute, man of the day William Butler scoring again, aided by Singleton once more.
Notts then had a period of ill-discipline and a rash tackle from Matthew Cooper saw him sin-binned for two minutes. This didn’t stop Notts from adding a seventh, Singleton slotting home a deserved goal.
Another green card for Notts and then a yellow after a reckless Jason Barton challenge in the final 10 minutes saw Notts happy to consolidate, and with William Butler off the pitch for the final 15 minutes Notts were happy to see out the game.
Berkswell did grab two late consolation goals through a short corner and a scrappy tap in that was the last touch of the game. But Notts were never in any danger of losing this game and continue to build momentum.
Notts manager Jay Faulkner said: “William Butler wasn’t 100 per cent fit today and has been struggling with a slight strain, so when we lost Latta in the warm up I was fearing we would have the bare 11.
“However, William didn’t suffer any reaction and had a great first half. If we had continued to play in the same vein throughout the second half we could have easily increased our tally.
“In all honesty our finishing was a little off today and we missed half a dozen chances that we’d normally score.
“This weekend we face Tamworth at home on the Manor at 2pm and will look to continue to build on our points tally.”
North Notts II won 2-0 at home to Derwent while Notts’ thirds produced a fine performance, beating local rivals Mansfield 6-2 in a very impressive team display.