Following on from a closely fought opening encounter with an enthusiastic Newbury side, this week saw the first away visit for Hawks since mid March. With the restrictions on sharing transport options, it was a relief to see that Northamptonshire County Council had no expense spared when it came to car parking options at the venue.
Being a school venue, the nurse was on hand, and every attendee to site was requested to have their temperature taken before being allowed on site. With a temperature of of 35.8 degrees, all was good, and we were allowed to proceed.
Once through the gates, it was clear the pitch was a traditional old school sand based pitch. There would be no chance of a ball bouncing uncontrollably - and this was something which Wootton were very used to, and able to use it very much to their advantage.
After results the previous week, with Wootton having stormed through the lower leagues, and having been promoted for two years on the bounce; and having a 9-1 result against Phoeninx (who, on paper were a similar league position last year to Hawks), this loked a tough match - and it appeared one of the sides most likely to earn promotion, even at such an early stage.
Looking at the Hawks side, it was 'light on defence' - with the Gilman Bubble system having to be adapted to cope with running with 14 players, and with one of his defensive trio turning out to be a Dutch Forward. ...Cue the strategic redraw.
Despite of the ensuing chaos, Hawks were rapid out the blocks. Debut player Nick (a veteran of Ice Hockey, but only his second ever game of hockey) marked his scoresheet in the first ten minutes not once, but twice - very much against the run of play. Two goals up, this looked like it was going to be an upset. The veteran central lineup of Lairdy, Baldock, Pratt and Gilman formed a solid core and structure; whilst the reactions of Theo in goal provided a confidence across the defence that all was in safe hands.
Whilst the previous week for Wootton had been a 10 goal thriller, this week was looking to rival it. The legue top goalscorer James Knibb had already scored four against Phoenix, and added a further score against Hawks, and clearly illustrated why the first XI had been powering through the league. As play continued, it was clear that this was going to be a game of attrition - with both sides having chances, and both sides falling foul of questionable decisons.
Half time saw the score finely poised at 3-2 to Wootton, with the half time team talk having to be varied. The initial suggestion to just pass it to Jeremy wouldn't work this week (and it turns out he scored for the 5's in their local derby, may be seeing less of his skills out front in future).
The second half continued apace. Both sides were clearly up for the fight, and this was a game to be relished. Theo in goal was cat like in his reflexes, making save after save; with the ball passing around frenetically across the pitch.
Wootton, however, were clinical in their short corner routines - scoring four from four; whilst Hawks had only the one corner opportunity during the game; and this ended up the crucial differnetiiator - as despite the efforts throughout the side, and excellent finishes from Lairdy Snr (not to be out scored by his son!) and side returnee Ollie Paton, a final score of 5-4 left Hawks enthused they were able to keep in the fight against a side who are clearly at the top end of the league structure, but feeling it was within reach.
With a side so far north, it was unfortunate that the C19 situation meant that there were no hospitality arrangements available, and it was a lonely trundle back down the A43 back home.
Thanks to the crowdline support from the Saunders and the Patons, in keeping with the father and son ethos to the team - maybe they will be tempted to pick up a stick one day?
Next week is the 15:00 home game against Windsor.