After what is becoming the normal numbers game in the week prior to an U18 Girls fixture, 13 players travelled to Banbury on Sunday to play the North Oxfordshire side in the last 16 of the England Hockey U18 Championships. The only slight problem was two of the thirteen were injured and limited to supporting duties only and a third player could only make the second half due to school lacrosse! Hence, a determined ten were left to shoulder the responsibility of the first half.
Despite a promising start including a penalty corner to Hawks, Banbury went ahead after 10 minutes and Hawks were then forced to defend for lengthy periods of the first half. The back four of Emily Cavender, Kirsty Mcullouch, Chloe Scragg and Zara Kahn contained the Banbury forwards well for the rest of the half and Hawks took full advantage of a rare foray into the Banbury circle when Gabs Mcerlain converted from a tight angle. With the luxury (?) of 11 players for the second half, Hawks started to create more opportunities going forward. Poppy Webb, Emily Taylor and Gabs Mcerlain worked tirelessly in the midfield and caused the opposition problems, but at times, Hawks turned possession over too easily in all areas of the pitch and Banbury continued to look dangerous. Lauren Thomas was called upon to make a composed save when faced with a one on one with the Banbury forward to prevent Banbury from taking the lead. Maddie Whitwell, Jen Wells and Imogen Joyce all had chances as the half went on and with ten minutes to go a fine passing move from the midfield into the forward line saw Gabs Mcerlain get her second goal and put Hawks into the lead. Imogen Joyce made sure of the win with four minutes to go when she finished from close range, much to the relief of the Hawks supporters.
Huge credit to the players who at times, did not to make things easy for themselves or for the spectators but showed huge resolve and a willingness to work hard to produce a result to be proud of and a place in the quarter final of the EH U18 Cup. Thank you to Annabel Denly and Sienna Robins for travelling to support their team mates – we look forward to seeing you both back on the pitch soon. Thank you also to Emily Taylor and her Mum who made the journey from Abingdon to Banbury in record time (all speed limits were strictly adhered to) to make the start of the second half. Finally, thank you very much to Paul Scragg for umpiring; the spectators for their support and encouragement and to Banbury for such great hospitality!