South Berkshire Terriers picked up their first league double of the season, following up their 2-0 home victory earlier in the season with a superb 2-1 away victory. With injuries continuing to plague the Terriers, it took one of the strongest team performance of the season from the team to defeat a determined Hawks side.
Oxford started brightly, and were almost ahead in the first minute, as a quick move saw the ball driven across the D but not converted from six yards out. However, the Terriers began to settle, moving the ball quickly down the channel and earning an early short corner which went unconverted. The team continued to press, and excellent work down the righthand side between David Murray and Jack Barker saw the ball through to Robbie Campion in the D, who delivered the ball across goal for James Romain to smash home for the lead.
Hawks continued to press, playing strong hockey and having the balance of possession. For the Terriers, it was a day for defenders to shine. Gregor and Alexander O'Keeffe were excellent at fullback, limiting Hawks in attacking down the flank. Ahead of them, Dominic Harvey and Jack Barker both proved a menace. As the half progressed, the confidence of Jack to take on his man was evident, and his marker progressively stepped off rather than risk seeing the young Terrier dance past him with sharp stick skills.
Terriers were rewarded as the half neared it close, as another goal mouth scramble saw the ball initially saved, before a bundle of players were able to poke the ball home. 2-0 at halftime, a good reward for solid, structured play which was frustrating the Hawks into making mistakes on the ball.
The 2nd half began with a similar flow - Hawks with possession but the Terriers looking composed when required, in particular in defence. Graeme Aldous made a welcome return to assist the stretched squad, and was a proverbial rock in the heart of defence. And when the Hawks were able to get behind the defence, the Terriers were able to rely on Jake Rouse, who delivered one of his finest games for the Terriers with a number of critical saves.
However, the Hawks pressure began to tell, and with 10mins gone of the half, the Terriers were slow to clear, and from the breakdown the Hawks crashed the ball in. With their tails up, they briefly threatened to press on for an equaliser. However, like a boxer going in for the knockout punch, they ultimately punched themselves out, and it was the Terriers who had the best of the chances in the final quarter. First, an excellent break from James Romain and Robbie Campion saw James drive the ball just wide with only the keeper to beat. Then Dominic Harvey made a mazy run, taking on four defenders before firing a tomahawk wide of the goal. And finally, with minutes to go, Jack Barker was nearly rewarded with a goal after an excellent performance, but his shot was swatted away by the keeper.
A 2-1 win, but the score alone doesn't do the performance of all the team justice. From the hard running of Robbie and James, to the relentless harrying in midfield of Ben Lambourne, David Murray and Karl Sprules, this was a victory built on teamwork, energy and commitment. The Terriers will win by more this season,but they will rarely play better as a team. It was a tough,physical but fair game, and the positive comments from the Hawks on the pitch and in the clubhouse afterwards towards the young Terriers players was much appreciated.
Next week, the Terriers welcome Reading Rovers to Cantley Park, as they look to avenge a defeat earlier in the season and maintain their push up the table.