The Magnificent 7s turned up on a glorious sunny afternoon on the far pitch at BRN with a squad that had declined from a generous 15 on Wednesday to a bare 13 on Saturday. Even Skipper Venables had abandoned ship, preferring the delights of watching some much better quality University Hockey. Stand-in Skipper Andy Graham took charge with a light touch, personable approach – very low key, one-to-one chats, that sort of thing – a very different “management style”. Shirley was entrusted with the toss and came back triumphant – not only had he won it and chosen the right end (the sun was low and difficult) but he had also negotiated enough time for Leo (not to be confused with Theo) to put on his kit, which he had only just finished collecting and assorting and recovering from the “locked” shed! Arguably Shirley’s most valuable contribution of the day.
The team and tactics more or less sorted themselves out, the now preferred midfield diamond, with two wide-ish men up front (to quote our stand-in Skipper, “we have just about worked out how to play it now so we may as well stick with it..). His final rousing words before we took to the pitch, “it’s been a shambles since the beginning for the season, so more of the same today”. I may be paraphrasing, but rousing stuff indeed. We did not disappoint.
Both halves can be characterised as Hawks having far more of the ball, controlling the midfield, playing pretty much entirely in Abingdon’s half, but failing miserably to convert many chances up front, including many short-corners. The only danger came from consistently giving the ball away and / or failing to clear from defence, leaving a fairly quick Abingdon forward line to run onto our fairly slow defence! This was a pattern which repeated, with varying levels of frustration, throughout the afternoon.
High points came with a short corner midway through the first half, which Shambles (Shirley) slipped left to Volans, who slipped it back, and an over-reaching Shirley (watch those hamstrings!) struck well into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Magnificents. Just before half time Skipper Graham thought he had made it 2-0 with another well-worked short corner routine, only for it to be ruled out for having been too high as it crossed the line. A number of Abingdon breaks were repelled, as well as several Abingdon short corners – Leo stood firm and even got the hang of shouting at Shirley… the defence scrambled well, and as ever Karl was busy and chaotic, while Stoker was calm and business-like.
The consensus at half time was that the next goal would win it. We would need a cushion going into the final quarter, and we needed Abingdon’s heads to drop. As the half progressed, the midfield rotation of Sri, Volans, Darby, Jamie W, Andy G and Rich W was combining well, but not always delivering the final ball to the front men – Elliot and McGrigor. Frustration was building, more chances came and went, and the short corner routine had lost its edge. Finally, after another messy attack, a bit of goal-line pinball, during which just about every Hawks player had a shot, the ball finally fell to Darby who struck home hard between the keepers legs from a tight angle. The crucial second goal and a cushion, with just about 15 minutes to go.
Of course it would not be that simple, as Shambles (Shirley) conspired to pass a sixteen clearance to the opposition, who thanked him very much and scored their first goal. All hands to the pump, a bit of game management, some hard work and running by the likes of James B, Rich W and Karl (Shambles did contribute well at the back to make amends!) and the Magnificents managed to secure the hard-earned and “ugly” victory they deserved. But you know what they say about teams that win when they are not playing well…
Goals - Shirley – short corner – 15 mins
Darby – open play – 55 mins