Terriers took full points from the first game back after New Year, but the 4-3 scoreline was closer than they really should have allowed against a Witney side that mirrored the Terriers with a good number of youngsters beginning their experience of adult league hockey.
Terriers welcomed back Rik Temmink to the side for the first time this season, and he swiftly settled into a creative central midfield role, freeing up Paul Harvey to drop back into central defence as the team rejigged due to injuries and some availability challenges. The first 10 minutes saw the Terriers control the game, with accurate passing but a little lack of overall urgency. A win was clearly there for the taking, but ball pace needed to be upped. It was a theme throughout the first half, as they took the lead as James Romain reacted quickly in the D to slot home the first. However, the Terriers didn't have time to settle on their lead, as they allowed Witney to break from midfield to quickly equalise. The Terriers were again in the lead midway through the first half - a penalty corner injection from Ben Lambourne went awry, and trickled out to Dominic Harvey. He calmly slotted the back across the top of the D to Paul Harvey, who fired the ball on the reverse goalward where Robbie Campion was lurking to pounce on the ball to bag his fifth goal of the season. Again, however, the Terriers lead was shortlived as Witney drew level with a strong strike from the edge of the D after earning a penalty corner.
2-2 at half time was a frustrating scoreline for the Terriers, who had created chances and generally controlled the game well, but needed to up the level of intensity as well as ensure they took control back in the centre of midfield, where Witney's strongest player was a menace when given the chance to run with the ball.
The response in the 2nd half was swift , as first Robbie Campion bagged his brace, quickly followed by another from James Romain. The Terriers then settled into a more sustained phase of control in the game, as Witney were limited to trying to hit longer balls to their forwards, whilst the Terriers used possession well and worked the ball well across the pitch. Dominic Harvey and Monty Neave both had strong second half performances in midfield, whilst Louie Bowbanks provided sterling work defensive whilst also getting quick ball working down the left hand channel. Likewise Jack Barker continued to grow in confidence in his first season as a midfielder in the Terriers side.
The other story of the second half was the number of occasions that some of the more experienced players took the chance to give the new Birch Hill pitch a closer inspection. David Murray was unceremoniously upended as he weaved past a Witney player, whilst Ian Wilson also hit the ground whilst providing some resolute defending. However, the hattrick hero was Paul Harvey, who graced the astroturf on three occasions, rounding off his acrobatics with a resounding thud to this head with six minutes to go.
In between all this drama, Witney pulled one goal back, after a goal mouth scramble saw the umpires unsighted as a hint of a back of stick helped the ball across the line. Despite pulling back to one goal down, Witney were not able to create any sustained pressure on the goal of Marcus Bown, and so it ended with a 4-3 victory for the Terriers bringing some positivity about the victory, but some underlying frustration that there weren't significantly more goals in the "For" column.
Next week sees the Terriers travel to Oxford Hawks. A 2-0 win earlier in the season was well deserved, but the Hawks pose a threat at home as they proved last year, when they won a great game of open flowing hockey 4-2. Terriers will also need to reorganise in defence as the squad is stretched again due to injuries.