Saturday 25th September and the start of a new season - frankly such is the level of chaos created by England Hockey I'll be astonished to see any opposition arrive to play the 2's at BRN. Fear not however. Word arrives that Witney have turned up to give us a work out and taking account of our final minute winner in the corresponding fixture last season we can expect a robust examination.
A good test then for our interesting mix of new joiners, young upcomers and seasoned campaigners. In addition we have Jonesey in goal. For one thing he looks like a goalkeeper should look , has an entertainingly gung ho attitude to all things but, rather more worryingly, is a key member of Her Majesty's forces. Absolutely terrifying.
I like playing Witney - they never give less than their best and are always well drilled. In addition their coach Chilv is clearly looking for revenge as we seem to have had the indian sign over them in previous seasons and he's getting a bit fed up with it. And just by coincidence or machiavellian design it was the first game of last season as well
So to the contest - as expected Witney are buzzing - harrasing Lewis at centre mid without mercy. On the ball Witney break aggressively and Jonesey is soon in the thick of the action. So Hawks going 2-0 up in 15 minutes is a trifle undeserved on the balance of play - thanks to a Dan Andrews trade mark flick and some Dutch sleight of hand from newcomer Tom Bohman.
Witney pull a goal back just before the interval. finally beating the redoubtable airman and the game is finely balanced at 2-1.
Dunners and TW - the latter making a brief guest coaching appearance - deliver the same entirely straightforward message that Hawks play lacks width and we need to stop trying to plough down the centre of the pitch. Not difficult to understand you may think - especially in a side with at least 4 Oxford graduates . But for the presence of some Brookes students in the side this is possibly the most academic hockey team in the country - although you'd scarcely believe it after ten minutes in their company!
So in the second half we continue to do exactly the same thing - no shock then that Witney come right back into the battle and before long the scores are level.
Thankfully with Witney battering the home goal and Jonesey in magisterial form Hawks pick up a penalty corner with 10 minutes left. A improvised slick routine at the top of the circle sees the ball slipped to Bas Marshall who clinically despatches it to the backboard - 3-2.
I'd like to credit Dunners with that match winning routine but regular readers of these reports from previous seasons will not be surprised to learn that it owed nothing at all to his coaching and was totally fashioned on the day - no doubt a portent of things to come. Welcome back Dunners we've missed you.
Not a great performance by the boys - by any stretch of the imagination - and a decidedly fortunate 3 points which will only have served to darken Chilv's mood. In fairness he was most gracious in defeat.
We need to do better.
Thanks to Clive Jones for the first 12 photos (it's like you've never been away) and to Evelyn Hargraves for the remaining 13.