Witney 3’s has been a regular league fixture for the 7th XI over recent years and is always an enjoyable game with former Hawks player Julian Easterbrook featuring heavily for Witney. This year Easterbrook senior was n/a but replaced by juniors 1 and 2 lining up along with other familiar faces.
The ‘Magnificents’ are still reforming as a consequence of the newly implemented Hawks transfer window with Tyser & Royer deservedly going up, Wells going to the Falcons, Hack coming back from injury, 3 new players and a couple of n/a’s. This team is a meritocracy and it didn’t go unnoticed that at training on Wednesday ‘Chair’ played upfront and scored. The teamsheet was therefore predetermined with Chair ‘up top’ and Theo as GK. Defence was also bolstered with the introduction of Hobbs/ Robson and Burroughs into the squad. Hack was given a chance to roam upfront too and once Elliott turned up he and McGriggor completed the front line with others slotting into normal positions and 3 on the bench.
The Magnificents performance in the first half was lack luster. We pressursed at times but gave the ball away cheaply and leaked 2 early goals as the new defence line up struggled to settle. A bit of tweaking saw Burroughs and Hobbs swap positions and equilibrium was achieved. We were putting Witney under pressure and we started to get some chances but sadly shooting wide from all angles. 5 mins before half time Venables drove into the D and slapped the ball through the keeper’s legs to reduce the deficit to 1-2.
Half time talk was positive and we felt with a bit more luck (or skill) we could have been leading. We agreed to press hard and try and get an early goal, not concede and then apply more pressure.
In textbook fashion the team did as instructed with 2 goals in the first minute with an Elliott deflected short corner goal and Hack firing in from open play having pressured from the restart. As all teams know, the greatest vulnerability is from the restart having scored a goal and Witney proved the point driving down the Hawks left flank, skipping around Stoker, Raynor and most of the rest of the defence to level up at 3-3, all within the first 2 minutes of the 2nd half. Hawks then started to maintain possession and Hobbs provide great penetration in his new right half position. Fraser scored from a short corner to restore the lead to 4-3 but Witney were not finished and Easterbrooks jnr 1 and 2 employed skilful stick trickery around tiring Hawks legs to bring the score back to 4-4. The Magnificents still had something in the tank and in the last 5 minutes Venables scored reverse stick from a short corner and then drove to the D, slipped left to Elliott who connected first time to make it 6-4.
Special mention to GK Theo who continues to grow in confidence and Sam Raynor who joins the transfer list and now departs to captain the 6’s. MOM went to Peter Hobbs for excellent work on the Right and DOD went to Elliott (slightly harshly) for jug avoidance. In club spirit, Hawks presented opposition MOM to the Easterbrook duo in the hope Witney might shuffle them up the teams for the away fixture next year.
Thanks to Gary Mahon and David Cooke for excellent umpiring.