Thurman's Three enough to send the Welshmen home defeated
A very enjoyable first ever Saturday Veterans fixture saw Sils sneak a victory in a very close game thanks to Rich Thurman's hat-trick.
No-one was quite sure whether this match signalled the end of the Summer season, or the start of the Winter one - perhaps it was the day of the week that was so confusing - with Sils welcoming Whitchurch Veterans to the club as part of the club day with them for a first ever Saturday Veterans match.
Captain Perkins had worked his magic to assemble a squad of Over 35s (well, almost!) and whilst the weather threatened to ruin the afternoon, the merry band of men took to the field to play against a Whitchurch team that were clearly quite good, as they had even done a proper warm up! It is fair to say that no-one really knew what to expect, but Perkins face was a picture when asking the Club Chairman what sort of standard Whitchurch were likely to be, and getting the response that they were a National League club!
The game got underway under the expert eyes of Andre Tchakhotine and RIchard Fell, and the visitors were soon looking the stronger side - the Central midfielder in particular showing why he was a Welsh Masters International - causing mayhem as he carried the ball a number of times into dangerous situations only to be cancelled out by a mass of numbers, or a good save by Jim Goldstraw.
Sils began to get back into the game, and soon built an attack or two of their own, with Perkins and John Rice combining down the right to cause a few problems. With about 12 minutes gone, Sils won their first penalty corner of the game, and with some debate, it was decided to allow Rice to take control of the top of the D, but he cleverly slipped the ball left to Thurman, who then flicked the ball into the roof of the net; all in all, this looked like a very well rehearsed routine - it obviously was not - but more on that to come!
Whitchurch came straight back, and following their own attack down the right, had a ball crashed into the D, which in the resulting scramble came off a forward's stick, and was directed towards goal, only for Simon McGuirk's leg to prevent the ball from making any further progress - Tchakhotine was unsighted, but given the nature of the game, Sils owned up to what had happened and reluctantly conceded the stroke. Goldstraw looked confident, but got baffled by spin/the eyes/the Sun/the wind/something else to see the ball creep over the line. 1-1, and all to play for.
Whilst Whitchurch continued to have more of the ball, by now Chris Thompson and Mo Hadian (the not quite 35 year old - but older than he looks player) had a plan to stop the visitor's playmaker, and meant that he was no longer able to punch holes in the home defence. Sils on the other hand, looked dangerous whenever they attacked, and shortly won a other PC - this time, Rice on the top of the D, took one step to the right, and thundered the ball home with a dipping strike. 2-1, and more amazingly, 2 from 2 from the PCs.
The 4 quarters of 15 minutes approach also appeared to be suiting the Sils side as we seemed to be getting our breaks in play just when we needed them - though probably more for the breather, than for any tactical masterclass to be provided!
The second quarter ended with Sils 2-1 up, and the team talk revolved more around how much rest we could give to the 3 players who were playing a second match later that day in the M4 v M5 Clash of the Titans; however, the Sils Vets took to the field determined to hold onto their lead.
This was made easier, by a third PC, again executed flawlessly - this time ball to Thurman, pass to Rice, and then returned square to Thurman who finished with aplomb, and it was difficult to tell who was more shocked by the fact that Sils had scored 3 out of 3 PCs; as this also happened to be the last PC that the home team would win, this also meant that the game ended with the home team having completed a perfect conversion rate of their PCs - an event likely to never been seen again!
3-1 up, and now Whitchurch really ramped up the pressure. They pressed higher up the pitch, and Sils began to tire. Goldstraw was called upon several times to make some critical saves, and Thompson, Jamieson, McGuirk and Aylin were working hard alongside Perkins and Simon Russell to stem the tide. By now, the home team were struggling to find Hadian in space as much as they had done in the first half, and Whitchurch were getting more attacks in of their own. They scored their second through a clever set-piece down the right, with their Club Chairman Mark Eggars ghosting into the D, and deflecting home past the helpless Goldstraw, and then as the fourth quarter started, the Whitchurch centre midfielder was able to escape his shackles enough to score the equaliser.
However, within 2 minutes, Sils had again managed to find space down the right, and a clever interplay between Hadian and John Harrison found Rich Thurman on the far post to complete his hat-trick, and put Sils back in front. This took the wind out of the Welsh sails, and Sils were able to dominate possession for the final 5 minutes, with Thurman perhaps guilty of not putting the game beyond all doubt, missing from close range on the left post. However, the home side had done enough, and a thoroughly enjoyable game had come to an end - to complete Sils first ever International fixture!
Food and drinks were enjoyed with our Welsh opposition, with man of the match being awarded to hat-trick hero Thurman, edging out Goldstraw and Hadian in joint second place.
Plans have already started to welcome the Sils to Cardiff at the end of the season for a weekend away!