We started where we finished last week’s game…..in torrential rain as the game got underway. Chair Higgins brolly once again getting a battering. Buoyed by a good win against Henley last week we approach this game with a sense of destiny. We had a ‘classic’ 7’s line up. A cast of 16 with Phil Hargreaves, Steve Elliott and Rob Breen returning this week. Dolly (Dom Ollie) was on half term break but just as well as fitness issues continue to concern.
To the soundtrack of ‘The Magnificent 7’, skipper Venables reinforced our passing principles and introduced a subbing format of 3 players rotating around 2 on field positions ensuring all get equal game time. We are nothing if not ‘equitable’ in this squad and with the threat of impending lockdown we all deserved a good run out. Abingdon were a familiar line up and were also unbeaten in the league this season. We were confident this wouldn’t be a Halloween howler.
The Magnificents absorbed some early pressure and soon worked out Abingdon’s strategy was to move the ball wide right and also bring into play their two key central players. Image and James B were dispatched to sit on the central players and our defence of Hack, Watson, Stocker and Hobbs blocked most advances out. On one of our first breaks James B, Venables and Elliott linked up down the left and secured a short corner as we entered the D. Usual striker Shirley hadn’t graced the pitch yet and Venables adopted strike position. First penalty corner found an Abingdon foot. The second saw Venables take a clean shot to the left side of the keeper and sweetly hit the back board. History will record this as a Venables goal, yet post match there seemed to be some debate and suggestion by Elliott that his stick had deflected this in. Higgins adjudicated and there was no clear majority decision. Umpire Jacqui Barlow was the other end of the pitch at the time and decided to abstain. In the absence of VAR or the ‘snick-o-metre’ the captain’s decision prevails….
Hawks subbing worked well this week. Regular changes saw McGrigor, Webb and Darby take to the field in forward positions. Jack W, Shirley and Andy G secured the defence and mid. Despite the lead we started to make a few unforced errors when we had more time on the ball than we thought. A break this time from the right found McGrigor at the top of the D who held well and passed to Webb further to his right. Webby then delivered a well struck ball across the D to find Darby ‘Van Persie’ who converted.
2-0 at half time felt a comfortable lead but we knew the Phil H had worked hard to keep us in the game with excellent work at penalty corners and open play.
In the second half we started to enjoy more territory and defence played higher but this then opened us up to the counter attack. Watson and Shirley proved vital at times, the latter employ his bulk and demonstrating the laws of physics when it comes to an immovable object. We started to move the ball around really well and frequently found Andy Graham on the right who worked hard all afternoon. To add to the history of the day then came another momentous, quite possibly ‘once in a lifetime’ event. The ball ricocheted around the D, Elliott swung…connected and the ball was deflected off the keepers pads to Bobby Breen positioned to the left of the goal. The rest I can only recollect in slow motion…he connected and then the ball launched majestically above the sprawling keeper into the roof of the net. Cue wild celebrations for a man who will gladly admit to missing many more than he connects with.
Abingdon continued to push forward and once again Phil H made some great saves and Abingdon were also unable to convert short corners. The Magnificents kept pressing and another right hand foray found Venables at the top of the D. Further history was made with a reverse stick sweep (I think it might be called a tomahawk in other teams but not generally employed by the 7’s due to lack of skill and …lack of skill). The ball hit a defenders foot on the way in but great umpiring meant the whistle held until the ball went in the goal.
So, history made…..a run of 7 unbeaten games and a Breen cracker. Our wins also come against the top teams in the league. Should Boris allow the season to continue we should be able to add to the points tally but we will take 2nd place in the league at this stage. We stayed to enjoy a couple of beers and an excellent curry in socially distanced circumstances celebrating a great victory. See you on the other side……
Many thanks to Evelyn Hargraves for the excellent photos.