The hard work starts now for Andy Woodman’s Whitehawk, who again showed improvement despite losing away at Maidenhead United.
Danny Mills had brought the Hawks level at York Road after Dave Tarpey’s opener, but Ryan Upward scored late on to give the high-flying Magpies a 2-1 win.
However, having played the top three in the last three weeks, the Hawks now face a run of games against sides around them at the bottom end of the National League South table.
“We battled well today, and I think we were unlucky not to get something from the game,” said Woodman after the match.
“We should have managed the game better after drawing level, and we conceded a needless free-kick which they scored their winner from.
“Fine margins determine the outcome of a football match, but again today I have seen improvement from the players and we want to build on this.
“The next run of games will be crucial, but I am confident we can keep the club up.
“It’s now time to prove that.”
Alan Devonshire’s Maidenhead side started the brighter, with Dean Inman firing into the side netting after James Comley picked him out from a free-kick.
However, it was the Hawks who should have taken the lead inside 15 minutes. Tyrique Hyde played a great through ball to Mills, who beat the offside trap to go one on one with the keeper. However, to the Hawks’ despair, he took too long in front of goal, and Rene Steer recovered to make a fine tackle before the striker could pull the trigger.
And the visitors were made to pay for that miss, with the Magpies going ahead just after the half hour. From a throw in on the right, the ball was fed to Tarpey who turned away too easily from Dan Harding before firing low past Tom Stewart.
That was Tarpey’s 34th goal in 31 games this term for the hosts, with the forward unlucky not to add to that tally when he headed wide before the break.
Stewart then did well to keep the Hawks in the game after the interval, saving well with his feet to deny Tarpey a second before Harry Pritchard forced the keeper into a smart save.
However, the longer it stayed 1-0, the more anxious majority of the 969-strong crowd were getting, and the Hawks drew level thirteen minutes from time.
The home defence couldn’t get a ball in clear, and Mike West’s low drive was only parried by Carl Pentney which allowed Mills to pounce on the loose ball and fire in from close range.
It was the confidence-boost the Hawks needed, with the game really opening up as both sides pushed for a winner.
However, it was the promotion-chasing Magpies who broke the visitors’ hearts late on. Comley drilled in a free-kick from the halfway line and substitute Upward rose unchallenged and his glancing header gave Stewart no chance three minutes from time.
Mills was then kept out by a great tackle, before Stewart made a great save to keep out Jordan Cox’s effort to keep the deficit to one goal.
“I can’t fault the effort of the players,” Woodman concluded.
“They gave their all out there, but a couple of moments where we have switched off has cost us again.
“We go to Margate knowing they will be up for it, but I am confident from what I have seen that we have what it takes to get that elusive win.”
Pictures by David Hunt.