It was a somewhat streamlined ladies 3s team which faced Maidenhead on Saturday, with only 13 players, unlike our usual 16! Hawks knew exactly what we had to do: come away with three points so that we have the chance to win the league with our final match in three weeks.
Skipper Jacs briefed a simple game plan: go out early and hard and put Maidenhead on the back foot, and make the ball do the work.
Hawks had first push back but an early error gave Maidenhead the ball. Hawks intercepted it back with a great reverse stick tackle by April, transferring up the left side, into the D finding Lizzie on the p-spot who then passed neatly to Emily on the p-spot, who wasted no time in putting the ball in the back of the net with her first touch of the game. 1-0 to Hawks within 35 seconds!
Maidenhead responded quickly to the Hawks goal and within a minute won a string of short corners in the Hawks D, but all attempts were swiftly dealt with by Hawks defence and GK Megan (as Clive's photos show - thanks Clive!)
Hawks continued to look cool and collected in possession of the ball. A great transfer from Gabs in right inner found Katie in the middle and effective passes meant that Maidenhead didn't get near the ball. Emily received the ball on the left and had a one-on-one with the keeper, which was saved; Em shot again and was thwarted, but the ball came back to her a third time and she put it in the back of the net to gain her second goal, 6 minutes into the match. Lizzie narrowly missed out a few minutes later with a great reverse stick strike which went just wide of the post.
Hawks had lots of opportunities but missed out several times, hindered by the opposition keeping 11 players in their own half and occasionally in their own 25. Hawks won a short but a good strike from Lizzie was saved by the keeper. A few minutes later, Hawks played some good build up on the right of the pitch and Becca crossed the ball in from the right. The ball deflected up from a Maidenhead stick and it was left to Em on the left post to deflect a mid-air ball with an outstanding first touch, right behind the keeper, giving Em her hattrick and Hawks a 3-0 lead apporaching half time.
Maidenhead had some speedy players however and had several opportunities in the last minutes of the first half. GK Megan kept the Hawks sheet clean with several cracking saves, both from open play and short corners, with composed and effective clearances from Jacs, April, Nicky, and Katie making sure that Maidenhead didn't have too many chances,
A productive half time talk from Andy Clark (thanks Andy!) meant that Hawks went into the second half with clear aims to pass or play to space, and tighten up the press. Hawks attacked quickly and a superb play up the right found Lizzie dropping the ball under her arm to Katie, who took a powerful strike but just missed the far post, narrowly missing out on joining the scoring.
After 10 minutes, after hard work by inners Gabs and Laura, a smart pass from Gabs out of a congested channel meant that Katie had room to transfer the ball and Lizzie and Em worked out a fantastic 1-2 routine, taking them all the way to the goal. Lizzie's shot was unrewarded but yet again Em was there on the back post to finish the play and put away the goal - 4-0 to Hawks. A short corner was very nearly another goal for Em but was just saved by the full back.
Lizzie was on form and determined to create more goal scoring opportunities - this time with Lizzie and Saskia playing some beautiful passing hockey and thwarting the Maidenhead defence. Saskia took a great shot which was just saved by Maidenhead - but had it gone over the line? - but then the GK lost sight of the ball, there was a goal mouth scramble, and the ball went into the back of the goal... could it be.. was it really... a fifth goal for Emily?! The spectators weren't sure if Saskia's shot had clinched it but the forwards confirmed that yes, it really was another great goal by our scorer of the day!
Maidenhead still hadn't given up the ghost and continued to pressure Hawks, with some fine work by the half backs, with Nicky putting in some brilliant tackles to deny the oppo the ball. The inners had plenty of work to do in the channels, with great passing play from Saskia, Gabs, and Laura, often finding the forwards on the T-spot and giving Hawks plenty of chances. Phoebe was unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions but was often part of the brilliant team effort which gave Hawks such strong control of the game.
It was left to Beth to close the scoring, with a strong attacking play from Hawks up the right of the pitch finding Beth's perfectly timed lead to the p-spot. The cross came in and Beth cleanly put away the goal with a sweep from the centre. The final score was 6-0 to Hawks, reflecting an outstanding, steady team performance.
Hawks now have to gain at least one point from the remaining match against Wycombe (who will be relegated) to go into the top position in the league. Hawks have scored 91 goals so far and will be promoted!
Thanks to Clive for the photos this weekend, Andy and Kara for the support on the sidelines and our many supporters who cheered us on!