Leamington Ladies 2nd XI 0 - 1 Old Silhillians 1st XI
By Stephen Tabb
Best attack in the league versus best defence, but result goes the Sils way
Leamington Ladies 2nd XI 0 (0) - (0) 1 Old Silhillians 1st XI
Goalscorer: Aline Leitao
Away at the best defence in the league, without your top scorer and your Captain - added to a 4pm start - this was never going to be an easy game.
Still, Sils, through the addition of Maria Savage and Aline Leitao over the Christmas break, have added strength to their squad, meaning the team still has plenty of players to call upon when playing without 3 players (with Clara Miles off travelling as well).
The home team, more used to their water based astroturf, started strongly, and shaded possession and half-chances in the first 15 minutes, playing an effective mixture of deep defence, hard pressing forwards, and direct passing. However, Ruth Dovey, Hattie Evans and Sophie Williams worked well with Jo Brett to mean that other than a number of corners, the home side never really had too many clear chances. At the other end, Sils caused problems with their pace - Priya Majevadia in particular working incredibly hard in the first 15 minutes to press the ball and run the channels to allow the Sils midfield to carry the ball dangerously. Sadly, with the team not quite executing the finer details right, they did not create any clear cut chances, and the half-time score was 0-0.
With Lucy Connors now joining the defence, and showing no signs of suffering from the hand injury she picked up towards the end of last week's match, this allowed Sils to push Ruth Dovey forwards, and this coupled with the non-stop running of Annabel Dalby, Sophie Boyle and Caro Kappes in midfield along with the strength of Ursula Santos down the left, and the Sils began to play higher and higher up the pitch.
Many half-chances were created - one moment saw a fine flowing move down the right resulting in an outstanding reflex save by the home keeper - and the forward line of Majevadia, Savage, Lauren Hobday, Elizabeth Shepherd and Aline Leitao never allowed the home defence to settle.
By now, it very much looked like it would be a 0-0 draw, or the Sils may sneak a victory, with Jo Brett reduced to an observer for much of the second half - however, she was called upon a couple of times to make important saves - one in particular where she slid out and closed a shot on the Leamington right to maintain her clean sheet.
In the end, the Sils did sneak the winning goal - Annabel Dalby winning the ball in the middle after yet another effective press by the forwards and driving to her right towards the D. She was able to slip the ball into the circle, and whilst the ball did not quite find its intended target, the ball deflected fortuitously to Aline, who marked her debut by latching onto the loose ball and firing home.
The Sils then defended compactly, with Hattie Evans growing in stature as the game went on, and the visiting team could have possibly scored a further goal, if it had not been for some excellent last minute defending by Leamington.
Final score, 1-0, and excellent performances by all involved. Not sure a 4pm match is to everyone's taste, but Sils battled through this one, and continue to set the pace at the top of the division. A week off now before a re-arranged match with Warwick students, and then player availability beginning to cause problems for the coach in a good way - Clara Miles will be back soon, and EJ and Frankie Levey will be looking to force their way back into the team also.