The M1's seemed uninhibited at the prospect of their encounter with runaway league leaders Reading on Sunday afternoon, and made the brighter start of the two teams - an early chance falling to Ted Bennett which was quickly snaffled by the Reading keeper. But it was Reading who drew first blood when Ryan Crowe produced a crisp finish low into the far bottom corner after a swift counter attack.
Despite the setback, Hawks continued mostly to hold their own but three minutes after the quarter break Reading extended their lead when rather fortuitously a mishit shot at goal fell to Tom Minall who was able to finish from close in. Buoyed by their lead, Reading's confidence grew although Hawks reached half time feeling they were still in the game, despite the two goal deficit.
Knowing that the next goal would be pivotal, Hawks took the game to Reading early in the second half. But Reading again demonstrated how to take their chances when a flowing move down the left flank saw the ball reach the top of the circle where another topped shot at goal allowed Minall to double his tally with a smart deflection in front of Chris Price in the Hawks goal. Not to be deterred, Hawks then put together a flowing move of their own where Olie Lobo and Ed Tristem combined well to set up a chance for young Billy Bishop but his effort went narrowly wide of the far post. Finally, just before the three quarter break, Hawks got the reward their performance deserved when Bishop calmly finished off another good move that had started down the left flank.
With their tails up, Hawks continued to press and a perfectly executed reverse stick tackle by Charlie Neat set up a swift counter attack that resulted in the first penalty corner of the game just before the three quarter break. Unfortunately, Hawks' normally reliable corner routine never fired on the day and the chance went begging. The final quarter saw Hawks mount periods of sustained pressure on their hosts and might have closed the gap to one goal within seconds of the final restart when Ed Tristem finished with an overhead smash that would not have been out of place on a tennis court. But the umpire had already awarded Hawks a penalty corner which they could not convert. A further penalty corner came and went for Hawks whilst the score remained at 3-1 but Reading then gave another lesson in how to make the most of the chances that come your way when they won and converted from their only penalty corner barrage of the game - the first being saved, leading to a retake which Andy Oxburgh deflected home. Determined not to surrender, Hawks stuck to their task and continued to press Reading hard, winning a handful of penalty corners in the process through Tristem, who was a thorn in the Reading side throughout, and Archie Winter. Their only success from a corner finally came with three minutes left on the clock when an initial shot on goal was saved leaving Freddie Foster to follow up and score from close range.
There was still time for Hawks to press and win two more penalty corners, but they came to nothing and Hawks were left to rue their failure to capitalise on the chances that came their way and as a result missing the chance to take a point off the league leaders, which would not have been undeserved on the balance of play. Some harsh lessons to be learned as the M1's go into the mid-season break from league games. But some genuinely encouraging signs that the the squad are on an upward path, and they are looking forward to the second round of league matches with realistic optimism.