Edgbaston 8ths 3: Old Silhillians 4ths 3
Pirate patch Tony nets for Sils with extraordinary vision!
Match Report by John Harrison.
Sils Mighty 4ths, stung from our first League defeat of the season at Khalsa last week, sought to return to winning ways in a second successive away trip – this time to the team immediately below us in the league table, Edgbaston 8ths. Edg are both competitive and sociable, and in truth probably the nearest comparable side we play in terms of their variety of ages, overall experience, and general approach to the game. It’s usually a close match, and if a league game can be friendly, a friendly encounter - and so it proved this time.
Sils welcomed back Alex Willetts and this made a big difference as Sils started well. Well, not so well really – a selected squad of 14 had only reached 12 by the start – for reasons unknown - and this made for some positional changes, with Skipper Dave Higgins reverting to centre back and Murray Creed providing the controlled anchor in the centre of midfield alongside Alex providing running and attacking drive. Edgbaston’s solid back line gave little away early on and their younger midfield and forwards began to exert control, leading to several penalty corners, but Yogi was on his game and saved well each time. The pitch was also playing a major part, with some areas really treacherous as the rain continued to fall, and numerous Bambi impersonations were to be seen from both teams.
The game became more stretched with both sides playing the ball around well – Andy Rush was once again causing all kinds of mayhem running at the Edg defence and not for the first time this season found that the oppo were forced to double and occasionally triple mark him to stop his drives into the D. Sils had certainly stepped up their game from the previous week and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 27th minute. A free hit near the top of the D was quickly taken by Alex, knocking the ball back to Shaun Bates whose first time pass into the area was neatly deflected past the keeper by Alex himself. Great goal, 1-0. Sils have been guilty several times this season of switching off after scoring and conceding almost immediately, and this nearly happened again, but Yogi saved once more. We really must learn from this.
However, just before the break it was one all. I can’t really think what to say, except simply that it was one of those goals which we will no doubt be talking about in the bar for years to come and something I’ve never seen before in over 40 years of hockey – which is, come to think of it, about as long as I’ve known and played alongside the scorer, Tony ‘the Whippet’ Dwyer. Tony etched his name in Sils folklore forever with an incredible smash into the (wrong) net - unchallenged and unmarked from fully 7 or 8 yards out - quite a distance for Tony to score from in my experience – it gave Yogi no chance and left everyone (even Keith) speechless.
The usual at half time – a call for control and commitment from all – and Dave’s words were simple “we all need to play like Mick Lane”, who was having an absolute stormer, strong tackling, total commitment, no prisoners and simple effective passing to a man. Also at the break, a welcome to Steve Aylin, fresh from not playing at Stratford for the Lions, but still leaving his kit there, and hence somehow arriving late. Steve slotted back in at centre back, and it was hopefully back to business as usual for M4.
The second half started similarly to the first with Edg attacking well and Sils soaking up pressure. But also as in the first half, Sils came back into it and forced a penalty corner. Well worked, JH out to Rushy, strong direct drag flick… no question, as clear an LBW as you’ll ever see from the full back right on the line and the umpire had an easy decision. The keeper somehow kept the stroke out, but Sils continued to build pressure and before long we had another short. This time it was the switch left and Alex Willetts let fly – same full back, same position, same result, same LBW decision (and probably by now a very sore leg!). Alex netted the flick to make it 2-1 Sils after 47 mins. This time there was no let up and we looked like we could have had more, with fine moves leading to shots from the Willettii (I think that is the plural of Willetts?) and Rushy going just wide. But this was an even game and Edgbaston weren’t giving up. A series of attacks saw Yogi being pressed into a string of saves, two memorable ones being a kick and chase out to his right to see the ball clear, and then a hand-tip over the bar to keep the lead intact. But after 60 mins there was incredibly a third PF (you go all season without seeing one, then 3 come along….), with Edg converting to draw level.
Not happy with the action, excitement and talking points yet? Time for a time-out called by the umpires as hail made the pitch unplayable – and the resumption after 5 mins saw the introduction of an orange ball easier to see against the wintry pitch background.
The game then guaranteed its place as first up on the Match of the Day running order with 2 late goals. With just a couple of minutes left, Sils forced another PC and when the initial goal bound strike was blocked by a defender on the line and bounced up, it was Keith W who was first to react and slam home the rebound from 2 yards. Tony, that’s how you do it. Sadly for Sils there was still time for Edg to win their own PC and get the shot away – with an equaliser in what turned out to be the very last hit of the match.
On reflection in the bar later, the draw was probably a fair result. League-wise, it was vital that we got at least a point against our closest chasers, so the gap is still 6 points over Edg in 3rd; Hampton also did us a favour with a 6 goal romp over 4th placed Worcester. There was also clear evidence from this game that we know what we’re doing at PCs, so we need to be more clinical in the D in forcing them. Like Shaun says. Every week. And he’s right.
Man of the Match : Yogi