Hawks Ladies 3s were back from a six week match gap in fighting form, with a 5-1 victory over Oxford Ladies 3s at Brookes.
Skipper Jacqui briefed a basic message in the changing rooms before the game: get the simple stuff right, make the ball do the work, and go out really hard in the first ten minutes to get Oxford on the back foot.
We were all quite surprised when that was exactly what we did! We had first push back and started strongly, but Oxford turned over the ball and their centre forward had a straight run down the pitch towards the Hawks goal. Channelling some of Nathan’s coaching from Tuesday training, Kim held her ground and landed a solid block tackle, depriving Oxford of a clear run at goal. Kim’s pass found Mel on the half line, who sent a powerful ball up the pitch to the forward line. Some slick back and forth between Lizzie and Bethany gave Lizzie a one-on-one with the keeper and she coolly slotted the ball into the back of the net: 1-0 in under a minute!
Oxford were unable to rally from our shock first-minute goal, and Hawks won the ball quickly from the restart, again displaying confident distribution and excellent pace. The Lizzie-Bethany combination triumphed again with another 1-2 pass, this time leaving Beth to face the keeper alone, and she confidently found the back of the net with another great shot. 2-0 within two minutes! It was hard to tell which team was more shocked…
Buoyed by the early scoring, Hawks played well, moving the ball cleanly around the pitch and having several runs on goal through the awesome skills of Emma, Becca, and Laura on the inner line and the tireless work from Lizzie, Saskia, Beth, and Bonnie in the forward line. The pressure paid off again at ten minutes, when Hawks won a short corner which was neatly converted by a power strike from Lizzie, taking the scoreline to 3-0.
Oxford shook off the shock and found their form, giving Hawks a bit of a wobble and getting GK Megan into the game for the first time at about 15 minutes. Thereafter the play was end to end, with shots for both teams, and Jacs, Katie, and Kim needing to stay on their toes to minimise Oxford’s shots on goal. Katie M was unlucky to put a great deflection just over the cross bar. Megan pulled off some outstanding saves and cleared effectively, but about 25 minutes into the game was left one-on-one with Oxford’s forward and was unable to keep the opposition from scoring.
The half finished 3-1 with Hawks wondering which team the second half would favour. While Bonnie nursed a swollen injured-looking finger after fielding a free hit, Mel and Jacs had some wise words for us about regaining our passing form and keeping control of Oxford’s strong central players.
The second half proved to be an even game with lots of hard running for the team. Inners Laura and Emma worked extra hard when Becca decided she probably did need to breathe after all and wisely sat the second half out. Mel, Rosie, Katie M, and Nicky had plenty of work to do in the half back positions, both building our own attacking play and depriving Oxford of the ball. With some disciplined passing play, Hawks started to come back into dominance and mid way through the second half, some brilliant team play started from a turn over of the ball in our own D, working through several players to cross the ball in from the right across the Oxford D. In a trademark move, Bethany timed her run perfectly on the left post and tapped the ball in, giving the keeper no chance to react. 4-1 and Hawks started to feel like we had control of the game as Oxford started to tire.
Hawks were unlucky not to score in a run of short corners and put together some clever passing play which kept Oxford’s defence under pressure. The forwards and inners linked really effectively and put together some brilliant play, with the midfield always ready to step in a shut down Oxford’s counter attacks.
With only minutes to go, Hawks had several shots on goal and Katie M clinically put the ball away in the back of the net. Somewhat unexpectedly the umpire blew for a penalty stroke, having seen the ball hit an Oxford foot on the line. After a bit of confusion it seemed we really did have to take the flick, so Kim took advantage of being on the skipper’s fantasy league team and claimed the opportunity. As the keeper went down to ground, Kim lifted the ball neatly over her and converted the goal, leaving Hawks at 5-1 with only a couple of minutes to go. Oxford threatened the final score with a couple of chances, but a confident Hawks defence kept the score line where it should be as the whistle went.
Sort of, anyway. It transpired that the umpires had the score line listed as 6-1 so there was some confusion as we tried to figure out if all 20-something players had somehow failed to notice an additional Hawks goal. It was resolved over teas in the bar and the 5-1 score line stands, leaving Hawks in a solid position to continue our promotion hopes.
Massive thanks to our many supporters for cheering us on!
MOM: Lizzie for her brace of goals and feisty efforts in the attacking third.
DOD: Mel for her tardiness after turning up at Hawks and finding no one there!
Next week: Hawks take on Marlow in a potentially league-deciding fixture.