Oxford Hawks were hoping for a home win against Gloucester City, having lost to them 2-1 away in October. Above Hawks in the table, the Gloucester side had lost their last three matches – albeit against the top three teams in the Conference – but showed no lack of confidence in the way they approached the match. Hawks came under pressure right from the off, double shorts bringing firstly a good save from Jess Hughes, and then a shot wide. There were some good phases of play from the home side, with Becky Odlin, a woman possessed, driving the ball out of the defence to release Katie Lowe on the right wing, with Becky Hibbert, Catherine Reaney and Sandra Roche also combining well. After 15 minutes, Hawks built their first clear attacking opportunity, with Jo Tolson's shot flying just wide. Gloucester, playing well structured hockey, continued to threaten the Hawks D in force, Caro Harris, Lex Thomas and Row Hearn’s defensive battles being supported by Lucy Stewart tracking back to smother a particularly dangerous incursion. Gloucester got the breakthrough goal after 30 minutes, swiftly adding a second two minutes later, leaving Hawks reeling and 2-0 down at the turn.
In the second half, Hawks came out with renewed purpose. Passion and work rate had never been in doubt, and now the ladies played with greater structure, some of the transfers across the back being a joy to behold, Bex Oakes posting-up well to provide outletting options. Henri Gordon displayed silky skills down the wing, Abi Flory and Annie Denly mounted charges into the attacking 23, and Kathryn Poulter harried relentlessly - but Gloucester’s defence held firm. At the other end, Gloucester came close with a shot rebounding off the post and Hearn picking another one off the line. Hawks were awarded a short corner mid-way through the second half, from which Harris' shot found the back of the net – but disallowed for being too high. Soon after, a scoring opportunity opened up for Reaney, her shot going agonisingly wide. In the dying minutes, Hughes had to pull off a wonder save to keep a second half clean sheet. Hawks can take several positives from the way they upped their game but, frustratingly, slip to down to 9th in the league - though level on points with Cannock, who they meet at BRN in a fortnight’s time.
Thanks to Vicki Hearn for the excellent photos.