Willetts wonder strike breaks Khalsa hearts
M4 share the points to stay 3rd
(by John Harrison)
As it’s my turn to write the match report this week, Keith told me just to start each sentence with “Willetts was brilliant”. No way I could do that, but I have put Willetts in the headline instead. It doesn’t mean Keith of course, but more of that later.
Sometimes you read the football reports in the Sunday papers and they hardly touch on the actual match, and so I thought I’d take a leaf out of their book (paper) and report on the rest of an excellent day spent at the Sils this Saturday too…. hope you don’t mind.
Arrived at 12.15 to umpire Sils Ladies Seconds v Stratford. Our L2 are young and inexperienced and in their first game of the season came off second best to a far more experienced oppo, but they stuck to it as the goals flew in at the wrong end (past a goalie donning the pads for the first time ever) and were a credit to themselves and to the Sils. There are some skillful players there too, so optimism for the future. For those of you who haven’t done any/much umpiring before, this is the place to start – both sides were politeness itself and never questioned a decision, and often made the decisions for themselves anyway. Craig tells me they even called him “sir” when he took the whistle last season. On this cloud-free morning, a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend 70 mins and warm up for the game to come.
As umpire, I could have gone with the team lasagne for lunch, but the approaching clash with Khalsa was on my mind and it looked a bit heavy and so I settled for a sausage bap instead, while watching the M1 take on a rather stroppy Telford side. Our boys looked like they have been watching the Mighty 4s, as they too started slowly and went two down early on, but from then on showed improvement, and had they taken advantage of a string of penalty corners would have had a better result. It got a bit heated mind you, with more cards dished out (mostly to the visitors) than Keith is likely to get in the festive season.
Time for a quick commercial break now …. Don’t forget to get your Silhillians Loyalty card: at £10 it gives you 5% off all purchases from behind the bar, and prices went up on Saturday. I got mine, I’m member no 0015, Cap’n Dave is 0017, and now we just need to have lots of beers to make sure the cards pay for themselves…!
Mentioning Dave, I always believed he was Mr Organised and thought of everything. 3.00pm came around and for the first time I realised this isn’t true! Amazing! The scheduled white-board session struggled to get going due to a technicality – the pens were not dry-wipe (“come on Dave, basics!”), so the first lines drawn looked to be permanent. Dave’s predicament was solved by the joint efforts of Pat’s new Admin Assistant Dominic, and Murray, armed with a dodgy looking sponge. Topics for discussion were “How to play out from the back” and “keeping our shape” and do you know what – I think we listened and learned. The message for the match was clear – shape, discipline, commitment (at least I think that’s what they were…)
The return of Alex and Simon strengthened midfield and Dave stepped up to sweeper to replace Shaun, whose cast and sling for a pinned broken finger looked more like he’s had both his shoulder and elbow replaced. Don’t know how much you paid for it Shaun, but hell it looks impressive! No Aylin or Bettridge either meant the back line was firm and fixed.
For the first time this season we started well, pressing down both wings and creating several chances in the opening 10 minutes. Khalsa were well drilled at the back though and their experienced defenders cleared up well, looking to feed their two high-lying forwards via a midfield which showed skill, tenacity (and the ability to fall over somewhat dramatically), if not a lot of pace. We should have capitalised on our bright start – one great move saw JH find Rushy, whose interchange with Keith resulted in a penalty corner – sadly we couldn’t convert though and a couple of further shorts saw moves break down before shots could be made on target. Half way through the half we were made to pay, conceding a goal from a penalty corner. The match deteriorated into a scrappy affair and Simon saw green in the dying minutes of the half.
A stiff half time talk was needed. Discipline. Shape. Want to Win. Mostly, this was delivered in the second period, but as time wore on with no more goals you wondered if this was going to be one of those days. Khalsa saw the chance for snatching an unlikely 3-points in a close contest and they tightened up further at the back – in the first half they saw the danger of letting Rushy run at them and in the second shackled him and Keith up tighter than any corset (not that I’m suggesting Keith might wear a corset, you understand….) and this reduced our attacking options. A period of Sils pressure saw JH hit the post, and we could easily have had a penalty stroke rather than a p.c as Khalsa’s defence resorted to chopping on the edge of the D. The game became tetchy and umpire Jamie Clapham (who had a fine game by the way) had a word with both captains, offering a card to anyone appealing or talking back – the offer of a long yellow one being accepted shortly afterwards by a Khalsa defender. Sils defence during this period stood its ground well, with both wing backs Craig and Mick having excellent games either side of the dependable-as-ever Frank.
Salvation came with a champagne moment just seven minutes from the end. A long corner was worked to Alex Willetts who drove forcefully into the D, rounding a couple of defenders before pinging a reverse stick bullet into the roof of the net – a goal of the season contender without a doubt. We pushed for a winner and won another p.c, but there was always a break-away danger and Yogi was brought into action a minute later, making a fine one-on-one save to keep it level. Sils ended the game with 10 as Keith served a green for bundling his marker over, and neither side could find the winner. Man of the Match has to go to Alex for the goal, and Sils stay in third spot, equal on points with our visitors.
This week’s beers with the boys were disrupted somewhat by the final game - hats off to Yogi and Shaun for stepping forward to umpire the Lions in a game under the lights which saw a bigger crowd than all the other games today combined. And to Simon for playing a second straight game. The rest of us tested out our new loyalty cards and looked at pictures of s**tty trains – but sadly without Bettridge for whom they were brought along (where were you Mike?). And in the bar, a second moment of realisation that Mr Organised Dave doesn’t always think of everything – our opponents are nearly all vegetarians so just went with the ‘garlic bread and rice’ option for post-match teas! They were fine about it and very friendly in the bar, but not surprisingly didn’t stop to listen in to Willetts Senior waxing lyrical about how great he’d played….