It was 10 degrees celsius with a soft southwesterly carrying a humid autumn breeze; the scene was set for the clash of the South Prem 1 titans as table topping Old Cranleighans travelled to the Banbury Road fortress to take on a Hawks team enjoying a scintillating run of form. Cut forward to 10 minutes into the first half and Hawks found themselves fully stretched against a stubborn opposition handling the ball with precision and fluidity and having already gone a goal up. Now those avid Attenborough fans will know that the Hawk’s preferred time for hunting is usually just before nightfall when daylight lessens; true to nature, just as the floodlights were signalled to be turned on, Hawks’ predatory nature came into play as Heywood broke the line to fire the ball towards the far post - a desperate defender’s stick saw the ball coughed up in front of goal where Godding was waiting to secure the equaliser. Game on.
Disaster struck the Hawks again as Old Cranleighans regrouped to go 2-1 into the lead. Hawks soaked up the pressure before unleashing a blistering counter attack. Confusion ensued moments later as a trademark goal from Andy Watts was disallowed. However, Manager Biggs’ blood pressure was calmed just before the end of the half, with a bundled in rebound from a Jack Biggs drag flick to level the score, Will Heywood the provider. Fastforward to the second half, the Hawks emerged hungry for retribution, a feeling amplified for those with the sour memories of last season’s trip to OCs, where the Hawks were forced to play on a near unplayable pitch in treacherous conditions. The wait for the goal fest was short - finishes from familiar names such as Jack Biggs, reasserting his dominance in the drag flick department, after Andy Watts had got his pitch fork out to scoop in the third from close range. The opposition’s desperation came to the fore; coming in at 160 lbs, 5 ft 11, ex-Hawk Dan Rhodes was up to his usual tricks, unwisely squaring up with the Hawks very own overseas heavyweight, coming in at a probable 180 lbs, 6 ft 5 (optimistically), Ryan Parry. Luckily for Rhodes the Umpire stepped in to send him to the naughty corner for 5 minutes of reflection. A late surge from OCs proved in vain as the walls of the fortress remained intact, guarded by the immovable object of Kieran Roche in defence and Ray Prince in midfield. Godding squandered a late chance to add to the teams’ impressive goal difference, however in fairness the pass was slightly wayward, the sun low in the sky and the moisture on the surface made balancing at that velocity a challenge in itself - sadly his teammates did not see it that way. Hawks need not look far for the opportunity to carry on the unbeaten run, with Cheltenham in the cup to contend with the very next day.
Thanks to Clive Jones for the photos.