Visits to Marlow rarely disappoint and Saturday was no exception. This was a contest eagerly anticipated by both clubs, Marlow 1's top and unbeaten, Hawks 2's second and unbeaten. Given that recent encounters between the two sides had been closely contested goal feasts the promise of another fierce encounter whetted the appetite. Our brave lads were definitely up for it and nobody expected the home side to be any different. They weren't.
Our brave boys had more support than usual away from home with the Ladies 4's having forced a 2-2 draw on the same pitch immediately before us and the Men's 5's (with Dunners guesting) having also played out a goalless draw against Marlow's 3's at Bisham. Thanks to them for staying on to bolster our support.
As usual the 2's had declared their allegiance and love for each other in the changers, blood brothers all, and committed to laying their bodies on the line for the team. There was a lot of rather unedifying expansive hugging but I'm afraid I've heard and seen it all before. It therefore came as no surprise that the side produced a first half of grim mediocrity. Half time arrived with the boys 0-2 in arrears for the second week running - the league leaders being comfortably ahead courtesy of a first goal of questionable provenance and the second a direct result of us failing to populate the top of our circle.
Marlow must have wondered why they weren't further ahead on the balance of play,whether we had sent the wrong side and how on earth we were still unbeaten,second in the table and only two points adrift of them. In truth we were clinging on by our fingertips and I thought we were definitely dead and buried this time despite the precedent of last week's tenacious recovery against Basingstoke.
I imagine both my regular readers will be familiar with the main battle scene in Braveheart where the Scottish hordes prepare for the carnage to come by brazenly exposing their bare bums to the enemy. This seems to have the desired effect on their collective psyches as they then tear into the rather better equipped and battle hardened King's army (without waiting for the starting whistle) thereby securing a stunning victory. No mucking about for them and taking half the contest to warm up. So, if doing that worked for William Wallace then why not Oxford Hawks Mens 2nd XI. I think we should give it a try as part of our prematch preparation as we can't go on giving sides a two goal start
Dunners came up with some standard platitudes in his half time talk but I was so convinced the game had gone that I was working out how to get out of the ground at the final whistle without talking to anyone - so embarrassed was I at our performance. Dunners told me after the game that he was convinced we were still in with a shout despite the first half no show. Quite honestly I don't believe a word of it and I think he's just trying to garner some retrospective personal kudos from the final outcome - which is , frankly, despicable.
Anyway no sooner had the whistle gone for the second half then several extraordinary things happened.
Firstly, we turned into a hockey team - no one more astonished than me except perhaps 11 men in red strip and their coach (in fact they seemed to have about 5 coaches in total)
Secondly, we scored 3 goals in a ten minute spell !!
Thirdly, Sam Greenbank without warning morphed into a top poacher of half chances in the circle exquisitely deflecting home two in quick succession - not something he has ever previously threatened to do in all of his time wih Hawks. No one more astonished than me. I had to check the goalscorers with several others before I was finally persuaded I was not hallucinating. It put me in mind of the late great Peter Baker who I played with many decades ago on Redgra pitches. He never scored a goal from more than three feet out but routuinely notched every week with similar deft touches. He was particularly fondly remembered for bringing his old flatulent labrador with him into the changing room before games. Happy days!!
Dan Andrews then rammed home a shorty and with about 15 minutes to go we briefly had a sniff of all 3 points until Marlow fashioned what I cannot deny was an exquisite goal, to even things up. Even then it was not all over as with 10 seconds left the home side were awarded a short corner which, happily, Jonesey beat away so 3-3 it ended. Another cracking game - as usual.
Everyone played their part in an exceptional second half but special mention should go to two of the younger players - Benji who had his best game of the season and Matteo who continues to play with a maturity well beyond his 15 years .
That was no means an end of the day's excitement and I will want to tell my readers of Dunners behaviour later in the evening when he decided to throw away his car and house keys for reasons best known to himself. Regrettably neither time nor space allows that tale to be told now - perhaps next week.
Finally I had a rather surreal moment in Marlow's clubhouse upon realising that over half the clientele were umpires - an extraordinary sight. If you think Catholic priests in Father Ted's Craggy Island Parochial home - but in yellow shirts rather than black cassocks and dog collars you'll get the picture. It got me to thinking what is a group of umpires called - a blast or a decision perhaps?
More challenges ahead before Christmas.