After the air had cleared from the pitch from the previous week (apparently it takes 15 minutes, according to the opposition C19 rules), Hawks returned to Fortress Banbury Road to take on one of the two local(ish) sides within the league - a youthful Banbury side.
Despite being MBBO division 5, the mix of teams across the league is rare to see another side which has more than a single player of a similar side to the Hawks lineup - and it was pleasing to see that Banbury had a clear development side, under the steadfast leadership of Noel Britto, and constituted a number of stars for the future to keep an eye on from across the county line.
Results to date in the league had not gone in Banbury's favour, but they had been buoyed following a victory the previous week at home, and were travelling the relatively short distance to play the prime time slot of 1:30. Both sides looked eager to make their mark, and claim the spoils, and with Captain Tom on duty elsewhere (he seems to get everywhere!), then Hawks were under the steer of Ed this week.
This meant the team rotation plans deviated from the now legendary GBRS, and returned to a more conventional rolling across the top, middle, or bottom - also known as the 'Strike it Lucky' strategy - and today, it did.
Hawks were out of the box like a coiled spring, and played the opening ten minutes within the Banbury 25, as pressure mounted. Despite the early pressure, goals were not forthcoming, and Banbury appeared to weather the pressure well, albeit somewhat slower to awaken.
The squad combination of youth and experience was now settling into a solid side, and the team was playing as one. The finesse and control of the midfield was perfectly poiosed, whilst the pairing of Foggy and Will Laird anchored the defence, and were able to master the defensive lineup. To single any one individual would do the team injustice, however, as the team continues to strengthen and become one.
The deadlock was broken after fifteen minutes, with a run of five well executed passes managed to breach a hole in the Banbury defence, with Jules Laird making an impressive strike to set the game alight. This did not set Banbury back, and play continued apace, but did serve to settle Hawks nerves, and allow play to run more freely.
A further 2 goals followed as play as first a short corner from Baldock snr, and an embattled strike from Laird snr hit the backboard - the Lairdy strike bringing the combined distance of all goals this season up to a total of 4ft!
Once 3 goals up, Hawks dropped down a few gears, and began to lose a focus. It was now Banburys turn to turn the screw. The closing ten minutes of the half saw Birthday Boy Theo in goal making a number of reaching saves, although finally seccombed to go into half time 3-1 up.
The second half saw much the same pattern of events, although this time it was Banbury who started faster, buoyed by the late goal, and with their tails up. This persistence was rewarded, with a goal to keep the game close at 3-2, and looking like it was going to be a long slog of an afternoon.
However, Hawks were able to realise the period of play, and regroup. The closing of the game re-alighted the flame, and maintained forward pressure.
The final result was 6-2 in Hawks favour, with Jeremy managing to hit the crossbar twice, reflecting what could have been a much more impressive scoreline. .
All in all, a masterclass of team play, throughout the side, but always that niggling feeling of how many it could have been.
With the 1's playing into the ghostly hour, this meant that there was an unusual pitch slot free immediately following the game, which led to a somewhat relaxed preparation and cool down, and included a lap of honour to those fortunate to watch, before the 4's game started some hour later.
Thanks to Jaqui and Dave Cooke for umpiring, and to Jan and the team for the post match teas (that Dahl is definitely one to keep on the menu options for later weeks!)
Next week sees a return to Heathrow, with a late afternoon push back against Staines - a side who declined promotion last season to focus on rebuilding the team and developing for future seasons. This will be a tough challenge, but likely to be an entertaining and high intensity fixture. (Note: the M4 is closed every weekend in various places during November, so for the author, this is likely to mean quite a detour around to arrive at the pitch, and of note for any side away at Reading or Windsor in the next few weeks to prepare for longer journey times)