The game was everything you expect of the first fixture of the season, in balmy conditions and cobwebs to be dusted away. The local derby with Oxford is always hard fought, competitive but on and off the pitch played in great spirit.
Oxford had a mix of experience and youth and this enabled a game of high tempo, with plenty of space and good battles all over the pitch. Well for 10 minutes anyway!
Falcons enjoyed early ascendancy and were perhaps a little unlucky as a Warner short corner struck the Oxford players foot on the line but the umpires were unsighted and the ball was cleared to prevent an early lead.
The pattern of the game then changed as Dick Heinrich was holding the line at the top of his D and inexplicably collided with a Hawks player and struck the ground with a crunch and little time to block the fall. He was clearly in distress and would take no further part, with a later diagnosis of dislocated shoulder and broken collar bone. We all wish Dick a speedy recovery.
Hawks were unable to re-group and the Oxford front-line caused difficulty with pace and penetration and they soon found themselves 2-0 down, with well worked goals by Oxford.
At half-time the frustration was clear and a rousing team talk required. Fortunately Billington and Wilsdon were up to the task and an improved shape for the start of the second half provided more cohesion.
The back four of Bowden, Billington, Kaluza and a 'loan player from Oxford' raised their game and enabled Hawks to play with more confidence in the forward areas. Bowden and Sumser on the right channel created problems and the pace of White and the guile of new player Burrell helped Hawks to create chances.
Fine goals by Sumser and Bowden drew Hawks level and their individual performances competed for Man of the Match. In the end Sumser just topped it.
A good early test for the Falcons and some clear learning points despite the age and experience wearing the new Hawks shirts.