University of Warwick Ladies 1st XI 0 - 3 Old Silhillians 1st XI
By Stephen Tabb
First half of the season unbeaten
University of Warwick Ladies 1st XI 0 (0) - (2) 3 Old Silhillians 1st XI
Goalscorers: Lauren Hobday, Ruth Dovey, Sophie Boyle
Slightly wary of the "food coma" experienced by a few of the players off the back of the team Christmas meal, the Sils went into this final game before Christmas knowing the opposition would be full of running. With Annabel Dalby off doing her own running in the National Cross Country championships, Ursula Santos dropped back into left midfield providing a different dynamic down the left side.
However, with the team wary of these things, the Sils got off to a perfect side, employing their tried and tested right side to create the chance - Caro Kappes finding Frankie Levey in the attacking 23; her early cross caught the home defence napping, and as the defender deflected the ball up, an onrushing Lauren Hobday volleyed home from close range to give the Sils the perfect start.
The low Sun was making it very difficult for players to see, and this did allow the home team to take advantage of the space that was afforded to them down their right, using their transfer effectively to launch fast attacks. However, the defence performed brilliantly, with Lucy Connors and Hattie Evans making several timely interceptions and important tackles, and when they were beaten, the calm head of Clara Miles and the non-stop running of Sophie Boyle made it impossible for the students to get into the Sils attacking D. Lauren's usual confusion with what 5m is made the task slightly harder for the home team, as she took a 2 minute break, but the Sils held firm.
At the other end, the fresh legs of Ruth Dovey were beginning to cause problems, and she was able to add to the lead - Ursula Santos rolling inside before expertly picking out Ruth in the D, who deftly turned inside and flicked home passed the scrambling goalkeeper.
2-0 at half time and the team was playing well, though very wary of the speed and constant running of the home team.
The first five minutes of the second half saw Sils pressing hard, but unable to make any clear inroads, and very slowly the University began to turn the screw and push the league leaders back into their own half. The Sils third came at just the right time, Priya Majevadia winning a PC by finding a foot, and as has so often been the case this season, Sophie Boyle was first to react to the initial save from the GK, and fired home reverse-stick into the bottom corner.
This goal was perhaps a little against the run of play in terms of possession, but was just reward for the hard work the forwards were putting in all over the pitch, not just to create space for the team to mount attacks, but also working hard to manage the press and prevent the home team from having easy routes down the pitch.
The University managed the ball very effectively for the remainder of the game, with far more of the ball than the Sils, and pressing aggressively, but Miles and Sophie Williams were using all their experience to play through the press time and time again and meaning that the 3-0 lead was maintained in a controlled fashion. Jo Brett in goal was called upon to make a few saves, but none were panicked, and were handled with no fuss. Emma James and Caro Kappes were covering huge amounts of the pitch on the midfield flanks for the last 10 minutes, and this meant that whilst the Sils were never dominant, they never really looked like conceding, and so the game ended 3-0. Priya Majevadia took the Player of the Match vote, thanks to her non-stop running and pressing.
The Sils go into the Christmas break with a fabulous record - highest scorers in the league averaging 4 goals per game, second best defence in the league, 13 different goal-scorers and five points clear. The ladies deserve their Christmas break, and can look forward to a few weeks off before looking to convert the results of this first half into what they really want - promotion and hopefully an unbeaten season! (Though still a lot of work to go to get there.)