After a previous encounter with Windsor being postponed in mid March after a finely poised game ended up abandoned, it was somewhat poignant that young George had been promoted through the sides and was now warming down with the Men's 4's, whilst the teams prepared on the sidelines for this afternoons game.
This game was also the first true test of how the Hawks side had matured and evolved over the break, as the first opposition which could be benchmarked against previous seasons performances as a known contender, and having won their opening encounters.
An available squad of a healthy 25 players (!) saw the captain and selection committee forced into making decisions on the cut of players between the sides, and it was good to see a number of regulard pushed upwards into the 5's; outwards to the Falcons; and downwards to the magnificents, resulting in a selected squad of the full complement of 16.
On paper, the side was immensely strong, but stuck to the core principles of junior development, with a pairing of youth and experience. Veterans of the club would certainly be aware of many of the experienced players, as one would be forgiven for thinking the squad lineup had been copied and pasted from the mid nineties (bar appearances from Hargreaves and Easterbrook - both of which were on duties with other sides) . From a junior perspective, it was paramount for the club that this experience was supported by the next generatoin, and with that in mind, it was the previous season league top goalscorer who took one for the team and missed out on any game this week - a brave decision, but one which paid off on this occasion (and will expect very much that Jeremy will not be missing many more fixtures!!!)
In spite of the experienced core, this was very much a day for the juniors. The GBRS (Gilman Bubble Rotation System) saw itself back in the fore - as attempts to manage squads of sixteen without a dedicated team manager became simplified to three men bubbles - utilising the sixes rule of six (minutes) to keep the side fresh.
Most people on the team had got used to the system, and the previous confusions over the approach had, in the most part, resolved and worked effectively. However, with so many changes, it remained difficult to settle into a steady rhythm.
Indeed, Windsor started the stronger side, with the first ten minutes looking a close fixture, with Hawks camped deep inside their own half. Windsor were looking strong, and appeared deserving of their position in the league, although were noteably missing their centre forward Martyn from the previous season, who had been promoted up to their first XI over the off-season and was making their mark in the 5th XI league.
Against the opening exchanges, it was Hawks who struck first, making an effective break out of the midfield, and clearing it through to Adam Laird for his first of the day. However, it was not to last long, as Windsor levelled the score almost immediately, with a rifling ball through that Theo made valiant attempts to save.
At one apiece, the play settled down, and moved more centrally into the pitch. Windsor looked imposing, with the play appearing to target their attack at the smallest Hawks player in the hope they would provide the weak point. Unfortunately for Windsor, this was the two Theo's - with Theo B squared up against the largest Windsor player some three times his size. This would not perturb him though - as Windsor were schooled time after time how to keep calm under pressure and keep hold of the ball. (And, of course, if they ever tried the other flank, they were greeted with a Fogden tackle - so unsuprisingly, that didnt get tried many times!)
Hawks were able to squeeze a break with a well executed series of worked passes around the pitch, whch resulted in Baldock senior completing a classic finish.
At half time, the game was finely poised at 2-1, and could have gone either way.
The second half was started in a spritely manner by Hawks, although slowed dramatically as a rain shower drifted over Banbury Road, and it became moody and dark. Play was briefly suspended as the lights were asked to be turned on. The call was made out - Russ, could you get the lights turned on...
However, the response returned was not as expected - Russ had clearly been living it up on stadium tours, as he loyally waved his fans a goodbye and thanks!
Once play was resumed, Hawks came alive, and won a short corner (one of very few for either side), which was saved on the line by the Windsor captain in astounding fashion - a real reaction save and impressive from the sidelines. However, the passage of play resulted in a stroke being awarded, to which Pablo dutifully stepped up and struck firmly into the corner - with the keeper having very little chance to react.
This seemed to spur on Hawks, as the goals began to flow. 3 became 4, became 5 as the play began to open out. Adam Laird added to his tally with a deft control of a wayward Windsor pass, that was masterfully massaged into goal; whilst Sam Gilman further demonstrated his growing prowess up front, doubling his tally for the season to date.
As the goals opened up, the Windsor heads began to drop, and the defence were allowed to press further forwards the opposition half, under the masterful eyes of Foggy and Will Laird. Long ago was Theo S's last touch of the ball. What had started as a very defensive fixture had ended up as a rout, with the final score of 8-1, equalling the goal tally from the previous week, and the pre season friendlies.
Next week sees Hawks away at Ashford, their side above having beaten our 5's this week, and who have now inherited the league position vacated by Windsor after today's loss.
Thanks go to Chris Hutton and Jim Patel for umpiring.
Thanks also to Evelyn for the photos