Men’s 1s in Solid Win over Exeter Students
Published on 02nd Oct, 2023
The M1’s entertained Exeter University 2’s on Sunday in their first home game of the new league campaign. Chronic unavailability meant several changes from the squad that won away in Plymouth the week before, including a return to 1st team action for the evergreen Phil Hargraves to keep goal.
The game started briskly and before it was barely a minute old Exeter squandered an opportunity to take an early lead, the ball narrowly missing the far post. But Hawks soon established some rhythm to their play and good work from Simon Hill resulted in the first penalty corner of the game in the third minute which Dan Andrews confidently converted to give Hawks the lead. Hawks exerted pressure on the visitors’ goal and Jack Hobbs brought a smart save out of the Exeter goalkeeper whilst a couple of penalty corners came and went for the home side without adding to the scoreline.
That changed in the twelfth minute when Jack Smart and Charlie Bowskill interchanged to provide an opportunity for Hobbs who finished clinically from ten yards to give Hawks a 2-0 lead. Both sides forced penalty corners as the first half progressed, one for the home side breaking down on a mis-trap whilst Ed Ellis clipped an Exeter corner off the line in his ever-dependable way. Hawks continued to control the game as it moved towards half time and three minutes before the break, Hawks extended their lead to three when a blistering crash-cross from Raoul Patel from the left flank was cooly and expertly deflected into the goal by Luke Hooper from twelve yards out - the speed on the ball being used to great effect. There was however still time for Hawks to concede a soft goal to the visitors when William Harvey was allowed to carry the ball unchallenged from outside the 25-yard line, into the circle and get a shot away past Hargraves.
This goal seemed to galvanise the visitors from Devon and within five minutes of the restart Rory Mitchell reduced the arrears to one. Hawks were making hard work for themselves with sloppy and inaccurate play and a casual play in defence lead to a dispossession and eventual penalty corner for Exeter. Despite another Ellis stop on the goal line, the game was tied up at 3-3 when the ball fell to Max Lowes to force into the roof of the net from close range. Hawks didn’t help themselves further when Jack Smart received a five-minute yellow card suspension for failing to retreat at an Exeter free hit but a goal line clearance by Andrews when Exeter looked certain to take the lead seemed to steady the ship. On the stroke of three-quarter time, Hawks managed to turn the tide when Hooper made a strong carry towards the circle before feeding the ball to Hobbs who regained the lead for Hawks with a good finish.
The final quarter of the game saw Hawks re-establish control of the ball and the game and with six minutes left on the clock Zak Hartley created some breathing space when he forcefully carried the ball down the right flank and along the dead ball line before pulling back to Hooper to score from six yards out. The game was put beyond doubt with three minutes remaining when a free hit just outside the Exeter 25-yard line was fed to Julian Laird who in turn fed Hobbs to complete his hattrick with a rasping reverse stick strike.
Early days, but Hawks have made a strong start to their EHL West Conference campaign, and now look forward to a trip to Bristol next Sunday to take on Clifton Robinsons.