Six-pointer success for super Sils at Warwick
Dwyer finds the right net to secure fine win
Old Sils M4 went into this relegation six-pointer with Warwick 5 in good heart and with great expectations after a comprehensive second half demolition of the league leaders Edgbaston the previous week. That performance saw morale raised and survival hopes boosted, and the introduction of new wonder-kid Pema, aka Pele, whose hat-trick certainly made a number of Fantasy League managers sit up and take notice (although sadly it came a day after the transfer window closed…!).
Pele was missing for the Warwick clash, but Sils were boosted by the return of Mike Bettridge to add experience and weight to the defensive back line, Chairman Steve to add tactical nous, ‘talk’ and distribution in midfield, and the re-introduction to M4 after a 20-year absence of the industrious Matt Fell at the top of the diamond. With four subs on the bench and James ‘Mourinho’ Gregory - complete with appropriate managerial shades - masterminding the changes, we knew this was a game we could and should win. Sils for once started fast and immediately pressed, creating a number of chances. From one of these, Tabby drove into the circle and a rally of shots eventually brought a defensive foot on the line, giving the umpire an easy decision to award a PF, which Cap’n Rushy put away comprehensively for the early lead. The attacking rhythm was continued throughout the half and Sils made effective use of the substitutions as the whole squad rotated, with everyone putting in a real shift.
Warwick had one real play-maker and their limited attacks were largely stifled by Bettridge and the increasingly impressive Mackenzie Hill as centre-backs, whilst on the rare occasions when they looked wide, the no-nonsense tackling of Lane, Ffitchero and Teal mopped up any danger. Any loose balls in the circle found Yogi in commanding kicking form, whilst from their one real shot on target our shot-stopper extraordinaire pulled off a great one handed save.
Sils deserved another goal and it duly came before the break when Tabby picked out Fell with an inch perfect reverse stick pass and the ‘old-new boy’ threw himself headlong at the far post (or possibly just fell over – I couldn’t really see….) to slam the ball past the helpless keeper. Whichever way, it’s definitely in the running for M4 goal of the season.
A positive half-time team talk called for more of the same, and this was duly delivered with interest as we played some of our best hockey. The substitutions worked seamlessly and it was encouraging to see so many players slotting into different positions – this is a squad where there are many line-up possibilities and Tony Dwyer (at wing back and wide midfield) and Jack Morris (across the midfield, and at the back) had outstanding second halves, both earning MOM nominations. Tom Smith and Aaron Lawana adapted well in a fluid midfield and attack line-up and will have benefitted from the experience stepping up from M5 too.
The third goal came midway through the second period when a period of sustained pressure saw the Warwick keeper drawn out of his goal and the ball fall invitingly for Dwyer, who made no mistake from about 12 yards into an empty net – to Tony’s obvious relief and Keith’s and John’s obvious amazement. (Though to be fair, Tony did admit he didn’t connect with this goal as well as he did with his career defining OG vs Edgbaston!).
Late on Andy Rush was sent clear but whilst he skinned two defenders easily for pace he could only find the side netting for a rare miss. A late consolation penalty corner goal for the hosts meant a slightly disappointing failure to keep a rare clean sheet this season. Overall though, the team performance was full of positive points. Stratford’s sudden and unexpected burst of form means that we remain seven points behind them with just three games remaining, but the performances of recent weeks should encourage us for next season, wherever the revised league structure should place us.
MOM: nominations were received for Bettridge, Tabb, Dwyer and Morris, but the award in a close contest went to Mackenzie Hill for a solid defensive performance in only his second M4 appearance.