First Home Defeat For The Twos At English Martyrs
By Joseph Milligan
Tough first game for Westleigh 2s
Last season seen Leicester Westleigh 2nd XI battle their way to the top of the league and gain admission to the East Midlands Premier division, the second tier within the Midlands leagues. It wasn’t a cold, wet Tuesday night in Stoke but it definitely felt like it and with a new captain, Callum Hale, the big question on everybody’s mind was: why was Tevin Mash wearing an elbow pad?
Callum opted to go with a 4-5-1 formation which proved to benefit the squad as for the first ten minutes Westleigh seemed to get a stranglehold on the game. Wave after wave of attacking play eventually paid off and Westleigh were awarded a short corner. Jon Kirby injected to trapper Jon McGuinness and Simon James opted for the straight strike, surprisingly connecting cleanly with the ball and putting straight onto the defenders foot on the line. After a brief conversation between the umpires the penalty stroke was awarded and Simon James stepped up to take it... goal! The keeper went early to his left and Simon James comfortably flicked into the empty right side of the goal.
The rain had started to ease up and with it Sutton Coldfield found there form. Some quick passing saw them claw back an equaliser and earn a penalty stroke of their own, which they calmly placed right of the keeper to take the lead.
Westleigh had attempt after attempt with both James Williamson and Simon James hitting the post, was it going to be one of those days; not if James Williamson had anything to say about it! A slightly off target injection fell to Jon McGuinness’ right side who took the ball in his stride before slipping it through to Tevin Mash. His shot was met by a great instinct save but unfortunately for the Sutton Coldfield keeper he had palmed the ball straight in the direction of hockey’s equivalent to Robbie Fowler, James Williamson, who took advantage of the situation poaching the ball from under the defenders nose and slapping into the back of the net.
Sutton Coldfield weren’t done yet though, attack after attack bombarded the Westleigh defence and despite the best efforts of David Wimbury and Nick Bland there was nothing they could do to stop Sutton Coldfield retaking the lead. A short passage of clinical passing around the back saw them find the gap behind the Westleigh defence. Chris Stokes, channelling his inner Manuel Neuer, came out to meet the ball but the younger legs of the Sutton Coldfield attacker were to quick and he rounded the keeper for a tap in.
Shortly after the restart the umpires signalled for the last two minutes of the first half. Westleigh knew all they had to do was hold onto the one goal deficit and come out in the second half fighting; but that was all to change. Some unconventional defending from Rajan Vara saw him win the ball in the left back position. A quick "squarial" to Jon McGuinness and Westleigh were away. The ball found its way to Matt Lilley on the edge of the Sutton Coldfield twenty-five, who rounded the imposing defender and slotted a pass through to Tevin Mash wide of the left post. A first time slap was all that was needed to beat the keeper on his near post and put Westleigh back on level terms with only seconds left in the half.
The half time whistle went and the effort given from all the players was obvious. With water on board and an Andy Murray style inspirational speech given by the captain, it was time to start the second half.
Sutton Coldfield didn’t take long to get up and running again, almost instantly reapplying the pressure back on Westleigh, and before Westleigh could get out the starting block the inevitable happened. Sutton Coldfield broke through into the crowded D and passed around Chris Stokes, only this time the attacker was met by the swinging axe of Nick Bland. The third penalty stroke of the game was awarded, much to the relief of Simon James who had stopped the stick tackled shot on the line and got his stick stuck in the net, only a metre away from the attacker. The stroke was converted despite Chris Stokes getting a hand to ball.
A rudely awakened Westleigh found their structure again and soon the game was back in their hands. Tevin Mash, James Williamson and Matt Lilley ensured the pressure was kept on Sutton Coldfield with their pace and movement off the ball. Joe Milligan and Jon Kirby had regained control of the centre and Sutton Coldfield were pushed back into their half. The pressure proved to be too much for Sutton Coldfield and Westleigh eventually earned themselves a short corner. A misdelivered injection resulted in Jon McGuinness having a shot which forced the keeper into a save. The rebound fell to Jon Kirby who picked the ball up with his back to goal. Keeping the ball well under pressure he slipped a pass back to Simon James who fluffed his drag flick; fortunately for him though the ball rolled onto this reverse stick and he swept home to get Westleigh’s forth and his second of the game.
Once again Westleigh had defied the odds to come from behind but the continued intensity was taking its toll on the Westleigh legs. Sutton Coldfield had the upper hand and soon it became a defence vs. attack short corner training exercise. Westleigh’s defending five dug deep and despite Sutton Coldfield having six attempts in a row they came out unscathed. A quick counter led to what would be Westleigh’s final attack of the game; Simon James’ shot from the right side of the D missing Tevin Mash on the back post by a matter of centimetres.
Sutton Coldfield had control of the game now, their pace proved to much for the old legs of Westleigh, but Westleigh hung on in defending each attack as it came. Unable to clear the ball beyond the half way line meant it was only a matter of time before Sutton Coldfield broke through the barrier of navy shirts. Then up stepped Sutton Coldfield’s equivalent to Andy Badly. The eight foot giant took the ball passed the tired legs of the Westleigh defence and smashed home what would surely be the match winning goal.
Westleigh knew it was now a case of damage limitation... or was it!? From the ashes of their sweat soaked bodies came a new lease of life for the Westleigh players and with five minutes to go they picked up the pace again and put Sutton Coldfield on the back foot again. Sutton Coldfield proved their stature in the league and held out until the final whistle taking the three points home with them.
A truly inspirational performance with plenty of positives to take away!
FINAL RESULT: Leicester Westleigh 4 – 5 Sutton Coldfield
GOALS: Simon James (2), James Williamson, Tevin Mash
MAN OF THE MATCH: Simon James – fought continuously until the very end
QUESTIONABLE PLAY OF THE DAY: Tevin Mash – ‘S’ goal celebration and elbow pad