The M1's entertained Sevenoaks in National League Division One late on Saturday afternoon, giving a debut to youngster Matteo Bignone and needing to inject some energy into their play after a flat performance against Bath the week before.
The first quarter didn't suggest that that message had reached the players as Sevenoaks were allowed to take early charge of the game. In the 11th minute a move and cross into the circle from the right found a Sevenoaks forward with the time and space to receive, turn and finish comfortably from ten yards out to give the visitors a deserved lead. And either side of the quarter break Hawks relied first on an excellent double save from Chris Price and then on a wayward attempt at a penalty corner to keep the deficit to just one goal. Along with the urgings of coach Todd Williams during the break, this seemed to be the wake up call the home side needed and from that point on the home side finally began to wake from their slumber and play themselves into the game.
The second quarter was a much more evenly contested affair and Hawks efforts were rewarded when they finally won their first penalty corner of the match on the half hour, allowing Jack Biggs to step up and achieve parity on the score board. The scores remained level at the half time break despite a penalty corner award to the visitors right on the stroke of half time - but this was well dealt with by the home rearguard.
Price was forced to make a smart glove save early in the second half but Hawks enjoyed their best spell of the game (and the season) throughout the remainder of the third quarter with a wave of threatening attacks that created several circle penetrations. Archie Winter's quick thinking at a free hit got the ball moving quickly just outside the circle and after feeding Charlie Neat the ball found its way to Ted Bennett whose rising shot at goal came back off the post. Thirty seconds later Ed Tristem's hard work created a one on one opportunity with the visiting Sevenoaks GK, who saved well. Three minutes later a flowing move down the right created the chance for Tristen to turn and shoot fiercely at goal, but this effort was also well saved. In the last minute of the quarter and against the general run of play Sevenoaks were generously awarded a penalty corner for a tackle outside the circle and as so often happens in these circumstances, despite repelling the first attempt, a second corner saw the visitors convert low into the bottom corner to give them a 2-1 lead at the three quarter break.
Hawks continued to take the game to Sevenoaks in the final quarter and levelled the scores three minutes after the quarter break when an aerial pass into midfield, a frequently used option by the visitors, was picked off by Hawks. Winter made the most of the opening, feeding Tristem to score from close range. Hawks probably looked the more likely team to score again and with six minutes left on the clock a high move involving Neat and Tristem resulted in Tristem forcing a penalty corner. Opting for a switch move, Biggs fed Winter but the chance was lost to a good smother save by the keeper. An avoidable turnover of possession in their own half was to prove to be Hawks undoing. The passage of play went on to lead to a penalty corner award to the visitors and as the umpire blew to signal the end of the came, the outcome seemed inevitable and the ball was dispatched low into the bottom corner to secure all three points for Sevenoaks.
A very frustrating outcome but a significant improvement in level of performance which now must be carried into upcoming games - first away at Teddington next Saturday.
Many thanks to Evelyn Hargraves who has provided some excellent photos.