Having won their Tier 1 Midlands league with a 100% record, Hawks U14 girls made the long journey to Norwich full of confidence, but also with plenty of nervous energy (or perhaps that was just Dizzy!) about the unknown quality of the teams they would meet there: Norwich City, Stourport and Saffron Walden.
With an unpredictable journey time to Norfolk and an early match start, the Holiday Inn Express, Domino’s Pizza and The Whiffler pub in Norwich all had unexpected surges in business on the Saturday night as parents and girls arrived in force.
The first match on Sunday morning was against the hosts, Norwich City. It soon became clear that the standard of opposition at Tier 2 was significantly higher than any team previously faced that season, as Norwich instantly put Hawks under pressure. It was somewhat against the run of play that Hawks mounted an attack, finding Giorgia in a great position at the top of the D. A superb pivot on the ball and she sent the ball winging into the far sideboard to take Hawks into the lead. Norwich fought back, however, and levelled the score before half-time. At full time it remained 1-1.
Next was Saffron Walden. In the first half, Hawks played some of their best hockey of the season. In the second minute of the match, Row carried the ball from midfield, eliminating a number of defenders before crossing from the left to Imogen, who scored with great composure. With Tanya helping to sure up the defensive marking, Hawks created a stronger platform from which to attack. The girls went 2-0 up from a short just before half-time when Row’s strike deflected into the air off the defender’s stick and fortuitously sailed into the goal over the top of the keeper’s outstretched arm. There could have been more, Poppy and Siena full of running and Chloe close to scoring on two occasions. In the second half, though, Saffron Walden came out strongly and a well taken shot from a short pegged Hawks back to a 2-1 win.
Finally Stourport, who Hawks L1s play in Conference West – a must-win game. Stourport were uniformly strong and organised, but Hawks managed to get a sequence of shorts in the first half – although, crucially, were unable to convert them. In goal, Cora was excellent throughout, but came under increasing pressure from Stourport, who scored just before half time. A short at the start of the second half took Stourport into a 2-0 lead. Heads could easily have dropped then, but the girls kept battling to the last and were disappointed not to get anything from the match, having had the balance of play.
Good luck to Norwich City, who go forward to the U14 Championship finals at the Olympic Park in May in a pool with Surbiton, Isca and Ben Rhydding.
Thanks to Dizzy and Scraggy for their coaching and organising excellence and congratulations to all the team for progressing so far: Alexia, Amelia, Chloe, Cora, Flora, Giorgia, Holly, Imogen, Izzy, Jessica, Nicola, Poppy, Row, Siena and Tanya.