Westleigh Draw against Tamworth on Opening Day
By Joseph Milligan
A draw that felt like a loss
Leicester Westleigh Men’s 1st XI vs Tamworth 1st XI
8th October 2016 2.30pm @ English Martyrs Catholic School
The rain held off and the clouds parted for what was to be Westleigh’s first game of the season in a new division following winning the league after a rather dominant 2015/16 season. Westleigh started out in a rather unorthodox 3-4-3 with the front three of Lilley, James and Taylor starting narrower in the hope to confuse the opposing backline charged with marking these supreme goal threats. Low and behold the plan worked; within the first ten minutes a somewhat lacklustre Tamworth attack was absorbed and nullified by the talented defensive threesome of Dudley, Captain Holder and McGuinness. Westleigh then hit on the break and within three or four quick passes around a defence struggling to mark players, Si James found the ball coming at him with only the keeper in his way, the keeper came out to meet James just inside the top of the D while James took the ball first time with a deft touch to wrong foot the waddling keeper… 1-0 Westliegh.
Tamworth were lucky to equalise against the run of play, the ball was smashed in from the 23 and an attacker managed to scrap an agricultural goal past the leaping Italian Bracaloni. 1-1.
Westleigh recovered well, piling on the pressure with attack after attack. The tricky wing play of recently injured (toe) Josh Noon on the left side had the opposition nervous. The midfield engine of Sellars cemented Westleigh’s dominance in the middle of the park as the first half was coming to an end.
After half time Westleigh came out with a vigour, a boost of energy and confidence that they could carry out the job that was needed. The midfield metronome ‘Tills’ was rolling back the years as he linked midfield to attack with a veritable cornucopia of ranged balls; and it was just that that set the wheels in motion for Westleigh’s second goal. A weighted through ball from Till’s released international winger Roma to bear down on the defence, he quickly shimmied past one then two and offloaded the ball to striker Taylor who was met by a rushing keeper who this time, got the ball, however the ball was to only rebound slowly to the top of the D for Lilley to run onto and chip first time over the keeper to send Westleigh into the lead in style. 2-1.
Westleigh continued to apply the pressure, probing each wing and the centre for weaknesses in Tamworth’s midfield and defensive lines. Professional part-timer Michael Joffe broke through the midfield in an elegant fashion and through a few calculated passes, Westleigh found a foot in the D for a penalty corner. The corner was injected perfectly by Holder however the ball flicked up from James’ stick into the air, James managed to bring the ball down without it touching his body and slip the ball right to Lilley who slapped the ball firmly first time across goal for Holder to deflect into the net with rippling force. 3-1.
The fourth goal came quickly after. A typical pinpoint Dudley aerial was picked out of the stratosphere from Kirby and again, Westleigh were in the opposition 23. The ball was fired into the D where James was waiting to clip the ball into the air and gracefully lob the keeper for the second time in the game. 4-1.
A calamitous 5 minutes saw Roma awarded his second yellow of the game and Sellars shortly after gave away a penalty stroke and was also given a yellow for his troubles. Despite Bracaloni’s best efforts the stroke was despatched into the top left and Tamworth had one back. 4-2.
Now down to 9 men, Westleigh struggled to find space and rhythm to hold possession. Tenacious Tamworth came at the wounded Westleigh with incessant attacks that tested each players’ fitness and resilience. Tamworth’s third came in the form of another scrappy passage of play finding its way through Westleigh sticks and into the bottom corner. 4-3.
For the first time in the game, all the momentum was with Tamworth. Each 50/50, that were previously won by Westleigh were now being won by Tamworth. In the dying moments of the game Westleigh attempted to relieve pressure by throwing the ball into the corner, but it was to no avail as Tamworth hit back again down pitch desperately searching for that equaliser. A through ball onto the D eliminated 4 Westleigh players and set up a one on one for the forward to clinch a point that was well out of reach 20 minutes prior. The player manage to slide the ball under the legs of rushing Bracaloni and just past the out-stretched stick of a sliding Westleigh player. 4-4.
One point a piece, however with one team walking away as if it were a win, and one as disappointed as a defeat. A great game for the neutrals, stressful for everyone else. Westleigh have come a long way in the last few seasons and during the game showed long stretches of play that reflected just how they dominated in the lower league and quietened anyone speculating their ability to compete in this league.
Next week: Away to fellow promotees Nottingham Players at 12.
Thanks to Matt Lilley for the report of the match!