Following a rather encouraging 5-1 victory against fellow South Div. 1 opposition Milton Keynes on Saturday, Oxford Hawks were set to take to the pitch facing an entirely different challenge on Sunday having drawn National Prem. side Hampstead and Westminster in round 2 of the Cup; knowing the sort of side Hampstead were capable of fielding Hawks knew they were in for a tough game and were not disappointed.
The opposition arrived on Sunday morning with a strong squad: their starting line-up boasted 7 internationals including the likes of Kiwi drag flicker Andy Hayward, Richard “Ratman” Alexander and Iain Mackay. This didn’t faze Hawks though, they were confident that their keeper “Fearless” Phil Hargraves had more pitch time under his belt than all of Hampstead’s internationals combined.
The starting whistle saw the underdogs fly out of the blocks, keen to prove to the opposition that they were not going to be rolled over easily. The run of play was somewhat in Hampstead’s favour, having the majority of possession for the duration of the first half, but Hawks were comfortable defending their territory; the back four, who were outstanding all game, put in hard hits all over the pitch and restricted the visitors to a handful of circle penetrations. Hawks were not without chances too however, winning 3 penalty corners in the first half, and a sharp open play break saw Will Murch hit the post. Disappointingly though they couldn’t snatch a lead which would have put their illustrious visitors under real pressure. As half time approached it seemed as though the home side would go in on terms but with two minutes to the interval Hampstead won a short corner which was comfortably despatched by Hayward. The half time score was 0 – 1.
Hampstead exerted some sustained pressure at the start of the second half in the face of some determined resistance from Hawks midfield and another corner early on saw them go 2-0 down. Hawks showed real grit however and immediately responded with a well-executed move that saw man of the match, Ethan Chapman strike the ball hard into the bottom corner of the goal from the top of the D. As the game progressed tired legs begun to show on the home side, one or two tackles were missed and Hawks suffered some temporary suspensions. Hampstead kept the pressure on and in the last quarter Hawks conceded a further three goals with Hayward, one of the world’s best drag flickers on target again despite sterling work from the evergreen Hargraves in the Hawks goal.
However Hawks were determined to have the last say , and in the dying minutes of the game they went on the counter attack from a breakdown in midfield, the ball falling to Kit Cutter in the D who calmly slid it past the keeper to make the final score 2- 5.
This was a hugely impressive performance and real show of character from Hawks, and one that will put them in confident mood to start their league programme next week.Thanks to Clive Jones for the photos.