An away fixture at Oxted is always eagerly awaited, with anticipated one to one challenges across the pitch. The forecasted wind speeds, potential vagaries of the M25 and thoughts of the six nations climax would add an extra dimension to Falcons determination to maintain a winning run for 2019.
In the event the opening exchanges proved slightly anti-climatic as Oxted resources were stretched with players arriving late. After a delayed start Falcons were adapting to a solid back line without the benefit of a goal keeper, and despite some tentative play were able to open their account as Whitey drifted across the D and deftly slid a reverse stick flick into the net.
With Oxted now maintaining a solid defensive line, and sporting the full X1 it was game on and Falcons would need to raise their level of intensity to maintain the early lead. However the fluidity was not quite there as the passing was replaced by running into contact their efforts were frustrated.
However Falcons continued their high line which left little room but did enable Whitey to again drift across the D riding several challenges but was able to find Warner in space and his first time drive found the bottom right hand corner for a 2-0 lead into half time.
In the second half Oxted were now finding their mojo, as Andy in their midfield began to link with the pacey inside forwards the Hawks defence were being hard pressed. As James Finlayson's movement provided an outlet, too often the space in front was limited and the midfield of Bowden, Burrell and Warner were unable to penetrate a canny defensive line.
On the break Oxted had pace and guile and Jones, Heinrich, Billington and Robinson were forced to battle across the back but were unable to prevent a short corner award, which was despatched to make it 2-1.
At this point the game was in the balance as Falcons frustration was evident and it needed a spark to re-ignite their grip on the game. Again Whitey would play his part as his constant running on the right flank enabled the ball to find Warner in a deep position outside the 25 and his drilled pass to the left post was superbly deflected into the roof of the net by Bowden to make it 3-1.
If Falcons thought the game was over, this was soon to be dispelled as Oxted again raised their intensity and their game plan threatened to wrestle the game from Falcons. With ever increasing wind speeds, and Falcons on the back foot and into the wind, the pace of the inside left caught Falcons cold and his drilled shot found space between the defence and Wilsdon's pads.
The anticipated head to head battles were now in evidence across the pitch and the contest was lively and could go either way. The next goal would be critical to determine the eventual result.
Wilsdon then played his part in goal for the Falcons. As the ball was flying around the Hawks D and on at least 2 occasions the goal appeared to be wide open, in the mayhem Wilsdon made amends for his earlier lapse with a quite superb save on the line and clearance which would go down as his save of the season by some margin.
Jones and Heinrich now marshalled the back division, and the inspired Jones worked his socks off to keep the lead intact, despite his tickets to Twickenham weighing heavily in his kit bag. Falcons cohesion was lacking but their dogged determination continued to shine through and they would be rewarded for their efforts.
Warner was increasingly playing a deeper role as the Oxted centre half was increasingly making his mark on the game and pushing his team forward. it was then Falcons turn to hit on the break and Warner found time and space to drill a pass into the right channel at the top of the opposition D. Finlayson would then play his part as the pass had caught the Oxted defence square and left a 'one on one' with the Oxted keeper. The calm Finlayson slotted the ball home with aplomb to give some breathing space at 4-2.
The hard working Jones would ensure that complacency would not now play a part and his overall display rightly earned him the Man of the Match award. Despite some scares, and some lively action in the Falcon's half, his determination and the reliable Billington doing what he does best providing a strong barrier to the Oxted threat down the right channel and the game would finish at 4-2.
The post match discussions in the Oxted bar were both enjoyable and reflective. Good hospitality is always a feature of this fixture and glasses were raised to past and future encounters, absent players and the history of the 2 teams across the years.
Thanks to Clive Jones for the excellent photos.