With an early push back Hawks started brightly against a Newbury team that finished 3rd in the league last year but turned up with only 10 men to start the game. For 20 minutes Hawks pushed and probed with neat interplay back to front. Newbury struggled to get out of their half but Hawks for all their endeavour failed to maximise our numerical advantage.
It was closer to the half-hour mark (Newbury by this time were up to eleven their player having turned up from having to put down a horse) when Hawks finally broke the deadlock. With our midfield 4 and front 2 finally clicking (Eddie having decided on an old-school footy formation) Hawks applied enough pressure breaking into the Newbury circle and forcing a penalty corner which Martin calmly slammed against the backboard. With our tails up Hawks mounted more attacking intent and quickly forced a second penalty corner which was slipped to the back post where Boots poached his first of what we are sure will be many league goals for the team this season.
With time running out on the first half Hawks probably had their best chance to score from open play. A well-worked ball out to the left-hand side stretched the Newbury defence. A thunderous ball was smashed across goal to the back post and with the Newbury keeper beaten Rich Tyser’s perfectly timed midfield run and resulting deflection surely should have seen the net bulge but to everyone's disbelief, the ball went high and wide from a few feet out. Later in the bar comparisons were made to Ash Sutcliffe’s miss at home two weeks earlier but let us be honest after rounding the keeper and with all the time in the world to walk the ball into the goal Ash’s shank is in a league of its own. You won’t dodge that one all season Ash – sorry not sorry.
The first 10 minutes of the second half started in the same vein with Hawks applying the pressure. With the left-hand side being a real threat a nicely worked move saw Will Jenkinson at the top left-hand side of the circle looking for a similar back post ball to the one at the end of the first half unfortunately what instead emanated was a high pitched squeal of Sorry, Sorry, Sorry as an ugly lifted ball almost took the heads off three Newbury players.
Up until this point, defensively Hawks hadn’t really been tested. Charlie Warner and Paul Poulter (Pablo) were marshalling the backline during the defensive phases and Ed, Arthur, Rich and Martin were keeping possession so well that it looked as though Hawks would see out the rest of the game without much concern. However as Hawks were caught on the break the prophetic half-time words of Captain Ed Baldock would come back to haunt us. “The next team to score will dictate the tempo for the rest of this match.”
At first, the scramble defence worked admirably with Charlie making a fantastic tackle on the penalty spot only to see his resulting clearance hit a Hawks foot as it left the circle. With Newbury’s first penalty corner they were back in the game having beaten Ben at his left post. With Hawks now pushing hard for a third goal to put the game to bed our defensive line and midfield became stretched. A Newbury ball scythed open the heart of the Hawks team and suddenly the scoreline was 2-2.
Hawks heads didn’t drop. Within minutes we were up the other end forcing another penalty corner. The first shot ballooned off a Newbury stick and Pablo pounced at the right post with a cover drive Sir Geoffrey Boycott would have been proud of. Newbury though wasn’t going to roll over easily. A well-worked move saw the resulting penalty corner slipped left and despite the despairing onrush of right postman George Dawson Newbury slammed the ball home for 3-3.
With time ticking away “Arm Gate” reared its ugly head. A neatly worked move on the right-hand side from Arthur Baldock saw a deflected ball pulled back to the penalty spot with Adam Laird ready to pounce. 4-3 Hawks. But was it? With Dawsey signalling goal Newbury quickly surrounded him in protest. With Hawks running back to our half in celebration players looked on perplexed as Newbury took a quick free hit and attacked. Dawsey had overruled his original decision much to everyone's consternation. Much debate was had in the changing room post-match and a very long-winded soliloquy was given by Dawsey as to why the goal was ruled out (you could probably write a book about it) although Adam was adamant it had come off his hand holding the stick as per rule 9.11 and not his arm.
The last 10 minutes were a tetchy affair with Newbury picking up the worlds shortest Green for persistent fouling. It was like he almost never left the pitch! However Hawks were certain they weren’t going to be defined by “Arm Gate” or the deteriorating on-field tempers and with 4 minutes on the clock Pablo flung a perfectly weighted ball from the top of the circle that cut Newbury open and required only the faintest of touches from Chris Royer to beat the Newbury keeper all ends up. A trademark deflected goal and well deserved.
4-3 Hawks and the first points of the season. Kudos to Charlie, George, Arthur and Ben for fronting up to a physical men's side. Roll on next week at Sonning.
Many thanks to Clive Jones for the excellent photos.