Hawks Ladies 3s met at Windsor for the start of the season's return fixtures, for a 3pm pushback before the team's Christmas dinner - the pressure to get back to Oxford in good time was only just beaten by the pressure to produce a win after last week's disappointment!
After four players sustained nasty injuries in the last week, the squad was already somewhat streamlined. Then on the morning of the match, three players had to drop out due to illness and crisis, and with the 4s' big fixture at midday we couldn't make much use of the benching rule. Super-sub Beth Nagle left the 4s' celebration to come across to Windsor and bench for us, much to the skipper's relief. Kim and Jess bravely battled lurgy to play most of the fixture and Katie Cannon soldiered on despite last week's worrying foot injury.
The match began and Windsor punished an early Hawks error with a decisive shot on goal. In her first outing for the 3s this season, Olivia confidently cleared the shot and found a Hawks shirt. Becca C picked up the ball around the half way line and skillfully made her way into the attacking D. She passed unselfishly to Rebecca, who placed a great strike on target which was clinically finished by Becca - all within the first three minutes. 1-0 to Hawks!
Hawks had ten minutes of sustained pressure but failed to put the ball away. We'd briefed playing the ball around the keeper, which our forwards took a little too much to heart, passing when perhaps a quick shot would have been luckier. Somewhat against the run of play, Windsor soundly converted a short corner and equalised the score, despite much of the play being at the other end. 1-1.
Hawks didn't look panicked and continued to build up play with lots of effort from the inners Jess, Storm, and Becca. Katie and Lottie were superb in defence when called upon and Olivia made a few more important saves. Jacqui opened up play with some powerful hits through to the attacking D, unerringly finding Rebecca B who was always in the right position to put pressure on the Windsor goal. Eventually the pressure paid off when a brilliant cross from Rebecca found Katharine right on the keeper's pads. In a nimble move, Katharine turned and deflected the ball behind her into the corner of the goal, taking Hawks ahead once more.
Hard work from halves Caroline, Jacqui, and Kim kept the ball moving forwards despite some turns of speed from Windsor. Hawks kept their form and never looked too much under pressure. Just before the half time whistle, Storm intercepted a ball in the mid field and in a repeat of Becca's goal, used her skill and speed to leave Windsor in her wake, and finally held her nerve and outmaneouvred the keeper in a show of real skill. The whistle blew before we could line up again and we went into half time 3-1 up.
We resumed play in the second half with an aim to score several more goals. With no subs apart from a bench player, the starting 11 were delighted to be able to call upon Bethany Nagle, benching up after her earlier top of the table clash for the 4s. Beth's determination and positional awareness opened up the game again and she was closely involved several strong attacks. Our fourth goal came from superb play by the defence, built right through the back and showing how important possession play can be. The inners found Rebecca B who put the ball away in her usual decisive fashion. Despite missing out on scoring some short corners, Hawks found new energy after the fourth goal and resumed the continual stream of attack. Beth posted up exactly as we've been drilling, took a great first touch from a sound pass, and coolly slotted the ball away past Windsor's keeper. The game ended 5-1 to Hawks and the skipper nearly passed out with relief. MOM went to Lottie for her clinical tackling and flawless distribution.
Then it was back off to Oxford for the team social and the club night - thanks to Rosie for organising! The 3s end the first part of the season in third position in the league, just two points behind the league leaders and one point behind second place. It's all to play for after the holidays! Our top goal scorers Becca and Rebecca are tied with six goals apiece - keep it up!