Hawks rue missed opportunities
The Adelaide Hills Hawks senior team travelled to Gawler for the last game of the regular season. Despite the Hawks securing the minor premiership and automatic promotion to State League 1 next season it was a good opportunity for the Hills side to try and get a psychological advantage over second placed Gawler, before the two teams meet home and away in the next fortnight with the outright winner going straight to the Grand Final.
The game was an opportunity to start talented youngsters Mackenzie Hyder, Jake Pollard and goalkeeper Travis Brookes to give them vital experience for the finals. On a difficult pitch, both teams found it difficult to find their rhythm. The hawks began to settle and the midfield of Danny Pauli, Luke Smith and Dan Ryles began to find openings for Pollard, Daniel Hosking and Lewis Farquhar. The Hawks had two great opportunities to score in the first 20 minutes but then succumbed to a 23rd minute goal when the smallest man on the park Bosco Uweso flicked a header from a direct free kick into the top left hand corner.
This rallied the home team into action and the Hawks found themselves defending stoutly against a confident Gawler. The league’s top goal scorer, Iradi Baragomwa then found the net as he was given time and space to volley the ball at the far post. To the Hawks credit, they stepped up a notch and scored just before half time after a great cross from Pollard found Farquhar at the far post and he headed across goal to place the ball inside the left hand post.
The Hawks made some tactical changes after half time and then began to boss the middle of the park and the game started to get heated. Once again the spurned three golden opportunities to equalise before finally equalising two minutes before normal time when skipper Jake Loechel bravely headed into the net from a corner despite having his head heavily bandaged after cutting his forehead in a clash early in the game.
Instead of settling for a draw, the visitors continued to attack but were undone on the counterattack in the third and fourth minute of overtime when substitute Pierre Ndayyirata scored a brace. Best for the Hawks were Loechel, Pauli, Hyder and Elliott. It was a disappointing way to end what has been a brilliant regular season for the Hawks. Statistically, they finished in first place, 8 points clear of second placed Gawler with 16 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses. They had the best defence, only conceding 25 goals and the best attack scoring 75 goals, which reflects on a mighty effort from the Hawks players.
The team now turns its focus on to finals. They play Gawler away next Saturday night before returning to the Hawks Nest the following week and will need to be at their best to counter the speed and guile of the large contingent of talented African players that Gawler have in their squad.