Hawk’s Men’s 4’s drew 2-2 away at Leighton Buzzard. It was a well-fought fixture, and although the 4’s will feel somewhat frustrated not to have come away with a victory, one point was better than none in bitter conditions away from home.
The expression ‘can they do it on a cold, wet, windy Wednesday night at Stoke’ is often used as the acid-test for top footballers – for example, Lionel Messi has proven himself time and again at the Camp Nou, but pundits often wonder whether he could replicate that form at the bet365 stadium? The away trip to Vandyke Upper School was analogous for Oxford Hawks. On a well-dressed sand-based pitch – with snow in the air and on the coldest of November days – could the 4’s continue their fine run of form?
They started the first half well, with the lion’s share of possession and plenty of goalscoring opportunities. Notwithstanding chances from open play, Hawks achieved five penalty corners during the first half – on reflection, not putting away more of these would come back to bite them. They did, however, convert their final penalty corner of the half – an injection from Matt Oakes found Bas Marshall; he gave the ball straight back to Oakes, who then helped the ball over the line. The ball hit the opposition defender’s foot in the process, and although Oakes’ effort should have stood, the umpire opted to award Hawks a penalty flick. A shame for Matt that his goal was not given, but the flick was duly converted by Bas.
Hawks showed some composure and managed to see out the remainder of the first half 1-0.
It was more of the same in the second half, although Hawks were not as reliable at keeping the ball under control and squandered a good number of chances. As a consequence, Leighton Buzzard began to build some momentum, and were knocking at the door for an equaliser.
The opposition did manage to draw level midway through the second half through an unfortunate Ben Knowlden own goal, but Hawks were determined not to see their hard work undone. They carried the ball well into Leighton Buzzard's half and continued to draw infringements out of the opposition in the final quarter of the pitch - Hawks were still very much a threat
After some patient build up play on the right-hand side of the pitch, the ball found its way to Chris Maidlow, who was in plenty of space in the opposition D, and simply lofted the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper to make it 2-1 to Hawks. With five minutes to go, the 4’s just needed to park the bus and see this one out.
But it simply wasn’t to be. With less than a minute on the clock, Hawks needlessly gave the ball away in their own quarter of the pitch and with much scrambling, panic and clattering sticks in the D, Leighton Buzzard managed to win a penalty flick after a lifted effort at goal found a Hawks body on the line; despite Phil Hargreaves best efforts to keep the ball out behind the defender in maroon. Given the circumstances, credit must go to the Leighton Buzzard player for stepping up and confidently dispatching the flick into the top left corner of the goal. The full-time whistle followed and the game finished 2-2.
There was some frustration amongst the 4’s following the conclusion of the game, but such are the high standards they have set themselves they expected to come away with more than a point – even against 1st XI’s within their league. A draw, which felt like a loss, will feel like a good result in time, but there will be an expectation to close out their remaining two games before the Christmas break with comprehensive victories.