2:10pm Saturday 25th February 2012
ST James claimed the Cotswold League's ‘B’ team final with a 6-2 victory over Ilmington.
The match had promised to be a close-run affair as the previous meeting saw St James edge the holders 2-1 in a short game.
But the full 40-minute match was to test the players’ stamina, concentration and skill.
St James had a nucleus of four players who will contest next week’s girls’ final alongside five boys, including the much-improved James Icke and the return of David Musgrave.
Ilmington went through the season with a series of 1-0 wins, thanks to a tight defence, and their team were all boys although two years younger on average than their opponents.
But, in the final, they lost a player to the sin-bin within the first minute and, 10 seconds later, a slick passing move saw Laura Tolley set up Sian Nurse and her high flick gave keeper Joshi Gibb no chance.
Ilmington returned to full strength but that could not prevent Nurse from robbing a defender and slamming the ball home a minute later.
Saints kept up the pressure with Nurse finding herself in space once too often and completing a hat-trick with only six minutes gone.
The third goal galvanised Ilmington but their first shot of the game slammed into the post with keeper Tim Wheatcroft beaten only to roll along the line and into his grateful arms.
Halfway through the period, Thomas Cawley took a free hit from close in and somehow found the only gap in the wall to pull a goal back.
Thoughts of a revival were short-lived, however, when Musgrave scored the goal of the night, rolling around a defender and flicking the ball into the top corner from Tolley’s pass.
Icke made it 5-1 when he anticipated a missed shot which rebounded from the back wall and finished accurately.
The half-time teamtalk helped Ilmington and Ben Law continued his high workrate up front to pressure St James.
The defence also improved and, after a first period when Ilmington were out-shot 20-7, they were ahead in the shotcount 9-5 during the second.
But Icke’s action replay of his first goal made it 6-1 to Saints before, with only 30 seconds left, Cawley gained his team’s reward with another direct strike from a free-hit.
Referees Charlie Pinfold and Jason Haynes controlled the match throughout.
Over the next two seasons, Ilmington will surely be contenders in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ team competitions.
Leah Healey received the ‘B’ team trophy for 2012 on behalf of a St James team who fully deserved their top ranking in this competition.
Other squad members included Freya Ingate, Sam Rogers and Alfie Aubrey.
Next Tuesday, St James and St Davids will contest the girls’ final.
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