Saturday the 14th October had all the potential to be a good day for the squad of 15 travelling to Reading. There was an unfamiliar warmth to the winter air, coupled with high spirits from the players, despite the early hour. However this soon changed when the team hit some rather slow stand still traffic within Reading’s town centre, traffic almost as slow as the University of Reading Hockey pitch.
From the off it was evident that Reading Uni were not the type to shy away from the ball putting a great deal of pressure on the Hawks back four. Nonetheless Hawks were able to resist such pressure with a few outstanding saves from Purdy, followed up by equally as good clearances from Annabel. 5 minutes into the game and Reading Uni were still piling on the pressure; Hawks found themselves defending the first penalty corner of the game. The opposition lined up for a straight strike from the top, which took a deflection towards the back post but no fear Caroline was there to smoothly pick the ball out of the air and clear it from danger.
The next 15 minutes of play proceeded to take place within the middle of the pitch. With both teams showing equal grit and determination, however none more than Hawk’s man of the match, Jade. After tracking back from an earlier counter Jade, won a free hit in the middle of park, taking it herself early, she floated the ball down the wing to Sherene who found a diagonal ball to Lotty on the oppositions 25. Despite the physicality of the Reading defence Lotty managed to carry the ball into the D and get a shot off, really testing the goalkeeper. The long corner was taken fast but unfortunately read well by the opposition’s defence and a long ball played into their front line. With Reading breaking fast in numbers far greater than hawks defence, it was looking bad for the side! Step up captain Emma who tracked back pushing the ball carrier to the wing, she was later accompanied by Phil to double team their opposition and prevent any further attack from advancing.
Coming into the closing minutes of the first half reading had set a high press, making out letting very difficult for the hawks defence. The opposition were unrelenting with their pressure, regardless of the countless tackles by Becky, Annabel and the rest of the defence, resulting in a 35th minute penalty corner being awarded. A very well polished set piece from Reading saw this penalty corner being converted making it 1-0 Reading University going into half time.
From push back Reading led with a quick, aggressive attack forcing Purdy to make not one but three excellent consecutive saves.
Now in possession of the ball Hawks looked like they were ready to take back control of the game. Not deterred by the high Reading press, the back four execute a flawless left to right transfer releasing Jane who with great pace carried the ball down the wing, winning a Hawks free hit. She quickly took it, hitting the ball down the line to Sherene, who managed to out runner her player and find Maddie at the top of D, for a reverse stick shot. Unfortuantely this attempt was blocked by the Reading defence.
Against the grain of the past 15 minutes of the second half, Hawks seem to find themselves defending 4 consecutive corners which eventually Reading convert making it 2-0.
Thankfully opportunity were coming thick and fast for Hawks in the second half, as Pip found herself running one on one with the keeper but alas to no avail, with the keeper coming out and smothering Pip’s attempt.
Due to more brilliant jumping back from the inners (Sophie and Caitlin) there was a quick turn over in middle of pitch. The pair linked up well, getting the ball out to the right wing
where Lotty was awaiting. Once again she made a great run down the wing to cross the ball into the D. Unfortunately this was cut out by the Reading defence and cleared.
Now coming to the last embers of the game the frustration was setting in for Hawks, as they had completely controlled the second half. The whole team still pushing for that ever-elusive goal, found themselves high. This was recognised by Reading Uni, who were looking for one final break. Fortunately Susan was there, solid as a rock to cut out the advancing forwards. This would be the final piece of play for hawks, as the full time whistle blew, 2-0 Reading Uni.