M4 hit four in new Div 4….
By John Harrison
but are edged out in a nine goal start of season thriller
It seems to have become a tradition that we start our league campaign off with a match against one of the Hampton sides, and this year’s opener was a close encounter which provided us with some positive signs for the new season, but sadly no points.
On reflection, our performance was perhaps something of a mix – as Dave had said at half time, we’d played some great stuff and some not so great stuff; perhaps not so surprising as there were new faces in the line-up and there had been little time to practice together.
A really bright start saw a period of early Sils pressure converted into a 2-0 lead – the first coming after good work down the left set Andy Rush free and from the top of the circle he found himself space for a trademark precision flick finish. The second followed quickly afterwards with a fast break out of defence through the centre of midfield, with Tom Whitfield, on his league debut, finding the net. Perhaps we were stunned to find ourselves ahead, but our feet then seemed to come ‘off the gas’ and we were certainly stunned by Hampton’s strong fight back, with some uncertain defending seeing the visitors first pull level and then take the lead. But before the break we were level again when after several saved shots, Tom Smith was on hand to eventually strike the ball high into the roof from 12 yards.
The second period started with what was perhaps a decisive minute or two, when Sils put in early pressure but saw a couple of chances go begging. Regaining the lead could have given us an impetus as our midfield and attack started to gel again as they had in the first 10 minutes of the game. But instead, it was the visitors who broke away and added their fourth goal from a tight angle. Heads could have dropped but both the Toms, Will Maidment and another debutant, Kheya Ballentine-Brain, (combined age of the four = 60) all put in a great shift in the midfield and starting to play the triangles, use the wings, and feed the ball into Sils’ number 10 ‘man in the hole’ Keith Willetts (age = 70) whose lay-offs and returned one-twos created some great shooting chances. We won a series of penalty corners, Tom W went close and Andy R struck the post with a fine shot. It was that man Rushy again who eventually found the net – the crowd was getting full value for money at four-all and all to play for.
With the back line performing well and being relatively untroubled behind solid sweeper-skipper Dave Higgins, our second half performance warranted at least a share of the points, but it was not to be as Hampton found a way round and notched a late winner. A disappointing result, but all in all, there were more positives than negatives to take away and build on for the coming campaign. The Man of the Match decision was the captain's call - Will Maidment getting the nod for his work-rate throughout.
Next week we have an away trip to Copt Heath (!?) - where we know the visitors get a great tea afterwards ;) to play Old Sils M5. Bragging rights up for grabs, but more important is that we use every opportunity (including training on Tuesday evenings, hint) to develop our fitness and our team play from this heartening first performance.