Thanks to the organisational prowess of ‘Chair’ Higgins the Magnificents assembled on a glorious Autumn afternoon at BRN with a full squad of 16.
S Berks and the Magnificents have battled it out over the last 3 seasons with S Berks having the upper hand with 4 wins, 1 draw and Hawks last win coming in Nov ’17 with a hat-trick from Watson. A well organised S Berks arrived at BRN putting the early psychological pressure on with a synchronised squad warm up and white board in evidence.
Skipper Venables’ pre match talk emphasised the need to enjoy the game, trust and support each other. With plenty of subs, energy would be the requirement of the day.
S Berks started strongly and it was clear we were facing a team with a plan. A spine of experience linked up well will with young legs out wide. They transferred the ball quickly with some nice one touch play. In the centre of the pitch our own spine of Dolly, Venables and Image took turns to man mark the danger players. As the game progressed Hawks found their own confidence and started find Elliot and Darby up front. The result was our one and only short corner of the match. A fluff by Dolly and a rebound from Shirley found Venables whose shot was deflected by a defenders stick going high and beating the keeper. Pressure then built from a determined S Berks working both wings with strong defence from our back 4 of Shirley, Hack, Watson and Stoker. A S Berks short corner then saw Watson employ some skilful footwork only for the ball to be deflected past Hargeaves. S Berks then followed up with some tidy passing to slice through Hawks defence and make it 1-2. Our rotational system was working well though and Nico and McGrigor came on upfront, Richard Webb replacing Andy Graham and Jack White filling in at the back. This was Nico’s last game before he heads back to the USA and his turn of pace kept the S Berks defence on their toes. Hawks were starting to break well and move the ball from 16yd hits better than recent weeks. Darby started to look sharp again receiving some good high balls. Then Dolly played an excellent long ball through to McGrigor at the top of the opposition D who the out foxed the on-coming S Berks keeper with a deftly topped ball which crawled across the line to make it 2-2 shortly before half time.
The Magnificents agreed they were pretty content with the 2-2 score at half time given the pressure applied. We are passing well and enjoying the competition. We were smiling whilst S Berks were engrossed in white board tactics. McGrigor was asked to account for his dribbler of a goal….’well he opened his legs and I decided to slip it in...’ was the best he could give.
Second half saw continued pressure from S Berks. Territory was very much in S Berks favour and most Hawks attacks being broken down quickly. S Berks racked up numerous short corners but Phil H was imperious and dealt with everything they could send his way. Our defence was holding firm but looking shaky when we played to high. Shirley cleared off the line from another short corner which he conceded following a stick tackle which was not out of place at a medieval jousting event.
It continued to be backs to the wall stuff for Hawks. Dolly’s fitness was again the subject to some debate as he limped off with a groin strain to be replaced by the effervescent Nico. Shirley was once again in the thick of it, this time taking a shoulder to the head. Concussion protocol came into effect immediately as there was a concern that a man who normally converses by guttural grunts suddenly became lucid. Rob Breen on the bench offered ice, which was swiftly declined on the basis there was no G+T to accompany it. Luckily he came quickly to his senses and his often glazed and confused visage returned. The defence remained calm(ish) including some steady work from Jack White.
And so the game ended 2-2. A historic moment for the Magnificents who are now unbeaten in 5 games in a row (3 wins and 2 draws). A feat never recorded before and a reflection of the confidence and trust in each others ability.
Thanks to Jackie B and Hugh B for excellent umpiring and also to Rob Breen for running the bench for this game.