The M1's entertained Team Bath on Sunday in a battle of 3rd place versus 4th place and with the race hotting up for a top six finish - and with it a place in a new upper tier of the EHL next season. Hawks started brightly but once Bath had weathered the early pressure, they took a firm grip on the game, opening the scoring on fifteen minutes from a penalty corner. Bath extended their lead seven minutes later when a cross from the dead ball line was deflected into the goal off a Hawks foot. A two goal lead was a fair reflection of Bath’s superiority at that stage but Hawks managed to hang on and pulled a goal back minutes before the half time break when Daniel Rayney made a break through the inside left channel before exchanging passes neatly with Andy Watts inside the circle and coolly lifting the ball over the oncoming goalkeeper from ten yards out.
Hawks changed their pressing tactics at the half time break and this helped them to wrest control of the game from the visitors. With Hawks gaining the ascendancy it was Rayney again who made something happen, exchanging several passes through the middle of the Bath defence before Josh Wierszycki made a final decisive pass to Watts to finish at full stretch at the far post. Unfortunately, Hawks rhythm was then broken when an immediate counter attack by Bath led to a penalty corner which was converted to regain the lead for the visitors. That the counter attack seemed to include control of the ball with a foot leading up to the penalty corner award seemed only to motivate the home side and Hawks upped the pace as they set about looking for another equaliser with twenty minutes left on the clock. However, Hawks could not quite find the precision to convert any of the several chances that they created and the Bath defence held resolute. As the clock ticked down, it had the distinct feeling of being ‘one of those days’ but to their great credit Hawks stuck to their task and with two minutes remaining a free hit outside the circle saw Rayney move the ball on to Freddie Foster on the base line from where his clever lifted pass over the keeper allowed Matt Wood to force home from close range. Sensing that maybe there was still time to snatch victory, Hawks kept up their intensity rather than settle for a draw. One minute later a quick interchange found Olie Lobo in a high position wide on the right and his pass found Watts in the circle who took the ball onto his backhand before smashing home from the top left of the circle – much to the delight of the home crowd! With just two games left to play, Hawks are now guaranteed a place in the new ‘Division One’ tier of the EHL next season.
Thanks to Clive Jones for the excellent photos.