Old Silhillians 1st XI 2 - 0 Atherstone 1st XI
By Stephen Tabb
Bruising encounter takes Sils ladies within touching distance of promotion
Old Silhillians 1st XI 2 (0) - (0) 0 Atherstone 1st XI
Goalscorers: Maria Savage, Priya Majevadia
The Sils went into this game against an Atherstone side that had shown early season promise, but had struggled in more recent times, with quite a reduced squad. Missing five players including their Captain, and with Ruth Dovey only able to get to the game at half-time, a Sils 12 took to the field on a day which threw every kind of weather at the team and the onlooking supporters.
Ursula Santos once again dropped into the heart of defence, and controlled the game throughout, ably supported by the ever-willing Lucy Connors and Hattie Evans. The midfield was the area that saw the most change though, with Caro Kappes moving alongside Sophie Boyle in the middle, and flanked by Lauren Hobday and Libby Shepherd. The versatility of this squad is something that has shone through this year, particularly with the younger players willing and able to move into slightly alien positions, and adapt within every game to deliver great performances. That being said, with the somewhat altered midfield, Atherstone were able to dominate possession for the first 15 minutes, though the home team probably had the better chances, taking their usual approach of breaking at pace when they turned the ball over; the Atherstone keeper making good saves from shots by Sophie Boyle and Caro Kappes.
The visiting team forced a couple of penalty corners, but the defence, organised superbly by Jo Brett, were able to match everything Atherstone threw at them - though a couple of cross-shots did fire agonisingly (for the visitors) wide of the far post.
Just before half-time, the first injury of the game came as Priya Majevadia caught a stick across her hand, but the mid-game break came just at the right time for Sils to re-set and welcome Ruth Dovey to the foray.
Half-time proved exactly the catalyst that the team needed, Dovey adding some extra steel in midfield, allowing Shepherd and Kappes to start causing more problems for the visiting defence. It was not through this right-sided threat that the first game came though. Lauren Hobday, with the half-time discussion fresh to her mind, picked up the ball and drove skillfully through the middle of the pitch - she beat two players and then as she made her way to the top of the D, slipped the ball to Maria Savage. Maria took one touch, turned inside and smashed a lifted shot into the far post.
This goal took the wind out of the Atherstone sales, and Sils began to turn the screw. Lucy Connors began overlapping down the right, and Boyle was driving purposefully through the channels now opening up in the middle of the pitch. The visiting team, realising they were now up against it, starting taking a more physical approach to stopping the fast pace of the young Sils team, with the next key incident seeing Kappes turn inside and then be sent sprawling across the pitch - whilst this moment led to Kappes leaving the pitch for some respite, it also allowed the Sils to focus on what was likely to happen moving forwards. The visiting team took this break to get themselves back into the game, but through some well organised defence, nothing came for Atherstone, and the Sils did not panic. Instead, they stuck to their processes, moved intelligently, and with Kappes returning to the game, a second goal came, and it was an excellent team move. The midfield quartet worked to create channels to play the ball through, and on this occasion, Santos threaded a wonderful 50 yard ball through to Kappes, who, in space, ran at the D, and committed the goalkeeper. The Atherstone defence did amazingly well to get back and cover, but Kappes intelligently passed the ball to the far post, allowing the sprinting Priya Majevadia to score from close range - ending a 40m sprint to arrive at the perfect time.
This pretty much killed off the game, and the result was never in doubt after that as Sils continued to pass and move, leading Atherstone to resort to last ditch defence to stop them - meaning they picked up 2 Green Cards, and 1 Yellow card in the last 15 minutes. Kappes was unluckily injured again as a raised clearance caught her on the hand, but by now she had already done her work, and very much earned her Player of the Match vote. However, the performance by all the team in the second half was great to see - meaning next week, which sees Clara Miles return from her travels, and all 18 of the squad available, there will be some selection headaches!