Old Silhillians 1st XI 5 - 4 Nuneaton 1st XI
By Stephen Tabb
Sils take the honours in a real humdinger!
Old Silhillians 1st XI 5 (1) - (1) 4 Nuneaton 1st XI
Goalscorers: Libby Shepherd, Frankie Levey (2), Priya Majevadia, Ursula Santos
Sils went into this match knowing free-scoring Nuneaton would be easily their toughest test so far this season - and so it proved. Whilst the weather was damp and a little chilly, this actually provided a good slick surface for both sides to play some good hockey on, and the gathered crowds were treated to an absolute classic! (And yes, there were crowds - thanks to the parents for watching, and those of the M1 that came down to watch and lend their support)
Sils started brightly, with Sophie Boyle pulling the strings in the middle and Caro Kappes causing problems down the right. However, after one or two good saves by the visiting keeper, Libby Shepherd almost scored, hitting the bar with a volley from close range. Unfortunately, with Sils not quite able to find their rhythm, Nuneaton struck first. Their game plan was clear - press hard, and look to win the battle in the middle of the pitch; with Emma James working hard alongside Boyle in the centre, Sils were looking comfortable going forward but struggling a little to break the ball through the Nuneaton press. The visiting side made the most of one of their turnovers by advancing quickly and striking home giving Jo in goal no chance.
With Sils a little taken aback to be behind for the first time this season, a quick change of personnel provided the impetus to wrestle the game back away from Nuneaton. Annabel Dalby dropped back into left midfield, and now with the dual threat down both flanks of quick and skillful midfielders (Dalby and Kappes) the Nuneaton defence began to be stretched and following a typical Kappes dribble down the right, Libby Shepherd was perfectly positioned to slap home from close range.
Half-time soon came and went, but Sils were beginning to take control of the game. 15 minutes into the second half and Sils had scored 3 times more, with first Frankie scoring with a reverse stick strike at a PC, and then again from close range after another fine Kappes dribble down the right, and finally the team's fourth through Lauren Hobday finding Frankie, who in turn was able to find Priya Majevadia at the far post to easily tap home. Sadly for Sils, Nuneaton did also score one during this time (to bring the scores to 2-2) showing their danger from PCs with a goal being scored after an initial save from Jo.
However, 4-2 up, and Sils should have seen this game home safely - but the visitors had other ideas!
Nuneaton found a new level of energy, and once again started pressing aggressively. Sils lost their shape in the middle a little as they tired, and within 10 minutes the game was level - 2 more goals scored from PCs by Nuneaton. All to play for!
Thankfully, even though Nuneaton had equalised, Sils were still enjoying plenty of possession and creating chances. Within minutes of the equaliser, Annabel once again danced down the left, scything through the Nuneaton defence, before finding Ursula Santos in the D. Ursula had enough time to unleash a reverse stick strike to put the Sils 5-4 up.
There were still a few nervous moment, with Nuneaton again applying pressure, but thankfully, in the heat of the moment, one of the visiting midfielders lost her cool and had to have a 5 minute break, easing the pressure a little, and this allowed Sils to see out the rest of the match and move top of the league with the 3 points.
A great game, played by two teams who must be likely to be up near the top of the league by the end of the season, but with Sils taking the points this time round. Player of the Match went to Frankie Levey for her two goals and one assist - but could have gone to many of the team as they all played their part in a good team performance.