Olton & WW HC 3rd XI 1 - 1 Old Silhillians 1st XI
By Stephen Tabb
Tight affair, but Sils do just enough against local rivals
Olton & WW HC 3rd XI 1 (1) - (0) 1 Old Silhillians 1st XI
Goalscorer: Sophie Williams
The Sils went into this game knowing that one point would be enough to mathematically confirm the Warwickshire Women's League Division 1 title would be heading for Copt Heath, but Olton & West Warwicks are never a side to roll over and just let the opposition have an easy win. The Sils also went into this match without the triple threat of Ruth Dovey, Caro Kappes and Annabel Dalby - three of their most effective attacking players. So, this was never going to be easy, and so it proved.
The Sils started well, with a fair amount of early pressure, Libby Shepherd and Izzy Gardner combining down the right a number of times to make inroads into the home defence, and a few half-chances went begging. However, Olton then started getting back into the game, and for the next 10 minutes, dominated the play, with their experienced defensive players also being able to pick out the fast and direct runs from their forward line to create a number of chances from corners and penalty corners. The returning Clara Miles was a match for most of these attacks in the heart of the defence, and was ably supported by Jo Brett making a couple of smart saves when Olton were able to get past Miles.
Sils began to play through the aggressive press of the home team, and slowly shifted the flow of the game back to them, with Sophie Boyle hitting the post, Maria Savage getting clear down the right and just failing to connect with her fellow strikers, and Ursula Santos also forcing smart saves from the home keeper. Captain Emma James was also beginning to get more attacking, and had a great chance to score, but a rush of blood to the head meant she was unable to make the keeper make a save.
Just as the Sils looked to be getting on top, Olton took the lead. A great ball out of defence from left back by Olton found a speedy home striker who then won a Penalty Corner, and whilst the initial strike was charged down, a crashed ball to the far post was deftly diverted home by the young Olton striker. 1-0 to the home team, and the undefeated Sils record looking under threat.
The half-time team talk came soon after, and the team was urged to keep working hard for each other to tire out the home team and put pressure on the ball as high up the pitch as possible. This is exactly what they did, and much of the ball stayed in the Olton half for the next 35 minutes. However, with Sils committing numbers forward, Olton still looked to cause problems on the break, again with their forward line using their pace to break through, and if it were not for the outstanding Jo Brett in goal (who deservedly won Player of the Match) making a couple of close range saves, and then also charging out to close down the Olton winger as she raced clear, the game would have been over.
At the other end, Ursula Santos went close with a reverse-stick shot, Boyle hit the post again, and the young Olton keeper saved time after time from close range efforts by Emma James, Maria Savage and Priya Majevadia. The equaliser did eventually come though, and from a slightly unexpected source. Boyle and James combined on the top of the D to win a PC, and from the resultant PC, a switch to Clara Miles was followed by a thundering shot which the keeper saved, but was not able to clear, and Sophie Williams reacted first to force the ball home from close range to score the deserved goal. Sils pressed to score the winner, but in the end 1-1 was a fair result to a cracking game played by two teams playing some very good hockey.
The league title should now be confirmed, but with two games to play, the girls will want to ensure they maintain their unbeaten record - with next week's test against second placed Hampton the first hurdle to navigate.