The ladies 3s travelled to Reading hoping to resume our winning ways after missing several matches in recent weeks due to the cold weather. Despite wrong turnings and A40 traffic, we managed to get everyone in the changing room with 30 minutes to go before the match time. Skipper Jacs briefed us to play a passing game, let the ball do the work, and to hunt in pairs so that Reading had no time on the ball.
Hawks started the game with a strong squad of 15 and a lot of energy. The play was evenly matched in the first ten minutes with Reading looking dangerously speedy on the wings, and plenty of work for Hawks to do in the midfield. New recruit Gabs dazzled everyone with her turn of speed and created lots of play with Laura and Megan in the inner line, and the team were pleased to have Katie M back in her spot in centre mid.
As Hawks settled into the game, we started to create more chances, with Laura unlucky just to miss the goal after her skilful work as inner gave her a chance in the D. With end to end play, it looked likely that a goal would come soon, but we weren't completely sure it would be in our favour. Then Megan received a clearance, popped a short pass out to Kim on the right, who committed the defender and slotted the ball back to Megan. Megan's brilliant first time hit from the halfway line found Emily Black in the attacking D who cunningly deflected the powerful shot into the back of the net. 1-0 to Hawks!
Reading weren't deterred and Hawks defenders Katie and April found themselves under pressure only a minute later. GK-Megan made a great save on her right post, but Reading managed to get the ball just over the line before Kim could clear it, and the score went to 1-1.
Hawks shook off the disappointment and increased their pace and slick passing skills. With Katie on the sideline running the subs and stats, we were starting to put Reading under serious pressure and a period of Hawks domination began. Some very determined work from Lizzie, Becca, Em, and Beth found Hawks with plenty of opportunities, and we soon put away another goal with a trademark tap in on the post from Beth. Hawks were 2-1 up and finding the form that had eluded us against Sonning two weeks previously. Lots of passing from midfielders Mel, Nicky, Katie and Kim meant that the ball was moving around the pitch quickly, and Reading started to fade a bit.
Hawks won a short corner. The insertion went a bit awry but Lizzie drove hard into the D, finding Kim on the left for a sweep onto the right post. The first shot was saved but Hawks were ready with second phase and Beth nimbly beat both GK and defender to finish the shot - 3-1 to Hawks at halftime.
No changes were needed at half time as everyone was working hard, and buoyed by our lead we went into the second half with plenty of positivity. Hawks played well but struggled to convert and GK-Megan made several outstanding saves to keep the scoreline from changing in a period of end-to-end play. Megan was unlucky to be denied a goal from a free hit in which she hit a first time strike from a pass before the keeper even knew what had happened. Unfortunately the other umpire spotted that the ball had just crossed the D on its way to Megan and hadn't travelled five yards so the goal was denied.
Eventually another round of brilliant passing play from the inners and forwards gave Em the chance to put away another great goal, taking the score to 4-1 and Hawks looking even more in control. Reading were a bit rattled and put in a few tackles which sent Hawks sticks flying across the pitch, but player of the match Katie M kept cool and in control in centre mid, keeping the ball flowing and plenty of possession for Hawks.
Hawks put the nail in the coffin with a brilliant solo effort from Megan, battling into the D and converting an unlikely looking angle into a stomping reverse stick strike which again left the keeper with no time to react. 5-1 to Hawks - a great return to form for Hawks and an outstanding team effort from everyone concerned.
Player of the Match: Katie M
Thanks to StatO Katie for her help on the sideline and to our many supporters who cheered us on, including the men's 5s who had a good win of their own.