The Mighty 4s suffer a 7-1 defeat by Warwick 4s in pre-season friendly.
This was a blow to the M4s preparation for this season’s league campaign but it was by no means all bad news. Read on…
With the opening league game against Redditch just one week away Sils were looking for a strong performance in this, the last of the pre-season friendlies. Sils were missing Andy Rush, Alex Willetts and Mike Bettridge but were still able to field a strong side.
The game started well enough. Three strong attacks down our right by John Harrison produced two excellent crosses into Warwick’s D. Shaun Bates maintained the pressure with a fiercely driven pass into the D at shoulder height which Willetts just failed to control. If we could continue in this vein, then goals would surely follow.
Unfortunately for us, Warwick began to settle into a rhythm of moving the ball around quickly, efficiently and effectively. Using short, simple and accurate passing with good ball pace, they began to probe and push forward. Their fast and skilful forwards soon began to exploit the open channels in our formation. They had a shot from a short that went wide followed soon after with another from open play which produced a great save from Yogi.
Around twelve minutes into the game and Warwick were awarded a penalty flick when Craig stopped a shot on the line with his foot. Warwick converted the flick and quickly followed it up with two well-taken goals. In the space of four minutes Sils had conceded three goals.
Sils defence and mid-field were working their socks off to stem the tide but Warwick continued to find the gaps in our formation. With only five minutes of the first half remaining it looked as though we would reach the break with a three goal deficit. Not so, in the space of four minutes Warwick scored three more. Pretty depressing to reach the break at 6-0 down.
It was noticeable that Warwick moved the ball quickly, making simple passes until gaps were exposed. They were not afraid to use marked players, confident that they could move the ball on before being tackled. They were comfortable with passing the ball back, sideways, A to B and back to A, switching it from one side to the other especially across their own D to probe for other outlets.
In contrast there were times when we looked rushed and uncomfortable in possession, often trying to force the play instead of making the simple, easy pass. As a consequence, we often gave away possession too easily. Yes, Warwick were undoubtedly a very good side but much of what they did was just simple, composed hockey, something which we are well capable of emulating.
At this point some teams would collapse but not us. We are better than that. We have a strong resilient team and we were determined to do better in the second half. The half-time team talk was uncompromising but also positive and constructive. The first thing to remedy was our own poor passing due to a lack of confidence rather than skill. We resolved to play with greater conviction and purpose to remedy this. It was clear that we needed more control in mid-field. We needed to close down the channels and choke Warwick’s aspiration. To this end the formation was changed to a more defensive 4-5-1. (This was actually the intended starting formation but for some reason we fell into a 4-3-3 pattern for much of the first half.) Although 4-5-1 would perhaps reduce our attacking options it would definitely help to frustrate Warwick’s ability to surge through the midfield and attack our back line.
With a change of formation and attitude the second half proved to be an altogether much better experience. At times it was a little lonely up front but looking back it was very encouraging to watch those at the back and in mid-field playing their guts out. Everyone played better and Tony J, Shaun, Steve, Dave and Simon played particularly well. We did manage to construct a few good attacking moves and scored from one midway through the half. A smiling Happi battled his way through a melee of defenders and then the goalkeeper before poking the ball into the net. It was a scrappy goal but one that was just reward for the team’s sheer hard work and perseverance.
Harrison succeeded in lightening the mood with his neatly timed continuous chopping tackle which threatened to slice up one of their fleeing forwards. The co-ordination required for running and chopping at the same time must be quite sophisticated. In any case his actions drew the attention of umpire Mike who was wearing a rather fetching sage green jumper. A card seemed logical but with the umpire laughing, John’s presence on the pitch went unchallenged.
Warwick scored a seventh but they were having to work much harder to penetrate our well organised defence. Sils mounted a late challenge towards the end of the game and put the goalkeeper under real pressure on two occasions. In the dying minutes Sils had a final shot but it went wide of the post.
Throughout the second half we showed that we can hold our own against a technically superior side. That’s a real positive for us to take from this game. Had we played like that from the outset I have no doubt that we would have come away with a much better result. We can take heart from that and go forward with the knowledge that we definitely have the ability to do really well in the league this season.
Man of the Match - Simon Russell