Whilst Reading are considered one of the stronger and larger English clubs, and being a 45 minute journey from Oxford, it would be assumed that their would be a fierce rivalry between the clubs of Hawks and Reading. However, over the past ten years, visits to the blue side of Sonning lane have been few and far between. It was, perhaps, fitting, that the endeavour saw the first of two back to back fixtures was for the Mens seventh team, facing off in the mid afternoon, with a freshly watered pitch. Both sides had plenty of supporters, with Hawks coming in the form of the Ladies sixes, plus the ever supportive John Black Senior (even if he was their only to provide transportatin to the younger namesake.
Despite being warned of the cannons, Hawks seemed decidedly blase about the threat of being blasted with water - possibly given that having a water based pitch actually watered for a seventh eleven fixture was such an alien concept... However, suffice to say, half the team were soaked as the cannons popped out of the ground. This was nothing compared to the pitch, which appeared to many to resemble a lake for the following five miniutes, as the drainage took a while to even out the pitch.
Hawks were slow to start, having to take a measured opening salvo without a keeper, as the Saturday afternoon central Reading traffic had meant he was delayed in arrival. However, Hawks were in strong hands, with a veteran defence, which in itself had a combined age over tht of the entire Reading side. The side also appeared to have been watching Lord of the Rings earlier in the week, as the team mantra was bvery much that of 'thou shall not pass', either for opposition players into the defence, or from certain unnamed midfield players when dribbling through the midfield :)
Play was very even, and end to end in nature, with no side able to break the deadlock, and short corners conceded by both sides. Hawks were on the receiving end of the greater number of shorts, but never really felt under pressure.
The deadlock was broke by Elliot Jnr. who managed to take the ball around the central defender, and neatly place the ball past the keeper's right foot.
This seemed to spur on Reading, who became more focussed, and countered with ever more pressing moves, and placed the Hawks backs under ever more pressure. This culminated with one of the Reading youngsters managing to outmanouvre the chair, and found the remaining backs slightly out of position, with a clear one on one opportunity against the newly arrived, and not warmed up keeper, which resulted in a well placed finish.
However, the effort required by Reading to break through told, as slowly the Hawks experience and peak of fitness took its toll. A second goal followed by the Senior Elliot; somewhat a miracle after the misses in the previous fixture. This was rapidly backed up by a third. Elliot Snr found himself unmarked on the wide right of the D, and on the wrong foot. Nobody expected what happened next, as the ball pierced across the goal, and landed top corner, with the keeper not even having the time to react. Unfortunately, however, it was decided tha strike was that top class that it could only have been fluke!
With a two goal deficit, Reading became more downheartened, and began to play niggling hockey, turning towards the use of elbows, as the energy waned on both sides. This was unfortunate, as the play to that point had been very even. Elliot Jnr. scored a fourth, to put the result beyond doubt.
With ten minutes to go, the play seemed to focus on the Hawks centre back, as two unfortunate events unfolded. From a sixteen, one of the Reading players had encroached to close down the Hawks options. However, as many readers will be aware, the particular player (and author) has a tendancy to generate lift, particularly on bouncy pitches. As a result, the young 14 year old Reading player received a rapidly accelerating hockey ball straight in the chest, which saw a brief break in play. Thankfully, by the time the game had resumed, it was clear that , whilst it had been painful, he was confirmed OK, and no further damage had been incurred.
Shortly after this, on defending a piercing ball through as a counter to Hawks, the centre back made a reactionary stop off balance, and on the reverse. However, the umpire had a view that the stick was deliberately back stick stopped, and interfered with play, resulting in a two minute sit in the sin bin (the second green card in a twenty year career). The author thought it was a fine stop and was a great reaction, but then he would say that...
Clearly, the lack of captain and forward finesse of Shambles were sorely missed.
Final result: Reading 1 - 4 Hawks
Alex Elliot: 2
Steve Elliot: 2