Adelaide Hills Hawks returned home to the Hawks Nest on Saturday 22nd May after a week off, with a do or die battle against Adelaide Cobras. Yet to score in the 2021 season, it was make or break time for Hawks. Coach Gaz Von Duve, made changes to the starting 11 bringing in Callum Hutchins and Callum Elms to bolster the midfield, alongside Scott Harrison and wingers Jake Loechel and Danny Pauli. Hawks defence remained the same, led by Captain Nathan Elliott, Connor Hudson in goal, Jared Daly, Owen Smith and Nick Walker, and Ollie Grant playing as the lone Striker up front.
The match started with back and forth play at both ends of the pitch, and Hawks were let off early when Cobras played a long ball over the top catching the Hawks defence asleep. The ball was put through for the Cobras striker to go one on one with keeper Hudson, but the striker lost his nerve and placed the shot well wide. Hawks opening chance came in the 8th minute when Smith crossed the ball into a dangerous pack, leading to a scramble in the box only to be cleared by the desperate Cobras defence. It was evident that the game was off to a fiery start with both sides willing to leave it all out on the field when in the 12th minute a Cobras winger went flying into a challenge against Hawk’s defender Jared Daly. Hawks were awarded a freekick taken quickly by Captain Elliott, finding Smith out wide who played the ball over to Loechel. Loechal switched the ball across to Pauli who drove into the box to fire a shot at goal, only for it to flash wide.
The game steadied out, with a chance for Cobras in the 22nd minute let down again by their poor finishing. Hawks came close to scoring again in the 28th minute from a corner taken by Smith, Smith’s placement finding the head of Loechel in the box. Unfortunately, Loechel’s header fell safely to the Cobras Keeper.
Shortly after, Hawks players were in uproar when Hawks’ defender Walker attacked the ball with his head, only to be blindsided by a Cobras player’s high foot which connected with Walker’s head, leaving him struggling to find his feet. The tackle resulting in an early substitution for Hawks, the groggy Walker replaced by Sam Thomas. Hawks’ dominance in possession was finally rewarded in the 39th minute when a poor clearance from the Cobras defence found Elliott who crossed the ball to find striker Grant in the box. Grant controlled the ball with his thigh before turning his opposition player and slotting the ball into the goal to put the Hawks 1 nil up and opening their league goal scoring account for the 2021 season, bringing joy and relief to Hawks players and spectators alike. Hawks defence held strong for what was a few nervous minutes before the break but managed to stop any serious chance from the opposition, giving Hawks a 1 nil lead into Half time.
The second half started very much the same as the first, with scrappy play and very strong tackles from either side leading to the game being a stop, start affair. Finally, in the 69th minute, Hutchins hit a long diagonal pass to find Pauli out wide. Pauli crossed the ball in low and hard to Grant in the centre who was closely followed by a defender and the charging keeper. Grant managed to lift the ball over both players causing a scramble on the line before the ball settled in the back of the net, making it 2 goals for Grant and the home side.
Hawks stepped up a gear, pressing the Cobras up high and on the 72nd minute mark the Hawks were rewarded for their continued pressure when a mistake at the back saw Grant charge through towards goal, this time becoming the provider as he found Pauli in the middle. Pauli slotted home the Hawks third goal to make it 3-0. Shortly after, Hawks made their second change, bringing on Mitch Keegan and Liam Mullan to replace Loechel and Pauli. Play resumed with Hawks again dominating possession, buoyed by their 3 goal buffer and looking to hold strong to play out the game.
With 10 minutes to go there was a collision between Hutchins and a Cobras player, the body on body challenge resulting in the Cobras player on the ground. Heated words from the injured player were directed at the Referee who was swift with disciplinary measures, issuing him a yellow card. Unfortunately for the player, it was his second yellow so it was directly followed with a red card and he was sent from the pitch, reducing Cobras to 10 men and enraging the Cobras’ bench. Cobras were awarded a free kick for the foul, but they were not able to capitalise from the advantageous kick.
Having an additional man was of benefit to Hawks, with all the play now holding up in Cobras half. In the 86th minute Grant made space, pulling away from his defenders to find Mullan who in turn played the ball to Hutchins. Hutchins hit a first time cross to Keegan on the other side of the goal and Keegan was able to head the ball into the path of the on charging Mullan. Mullan made no mistake, burying the ball into the back of the net. The home crowd erupted, with Hawks goal drought a distant memory as the Nest celebrated a 4 goal haul. Hutchins was subbed in the 90th minute, replaced by Jarrah Gardner. Hawks continued to press for more in the dying minutes but there were no clear cut chances, the game finishing 4-0 nil to Hawks, giving them their first win of the season and lifting them off the bottom of the table.
Hopefully the 4-0 confidence boost will instil the self-belief the group need to take on Adelaide Victory at Enfield next week. In an all round good team performance, best players for Hawks were Ollie Grant, Callum Hutchins, Nathan Elliott and Danny Pauli.