Danny Mills scored a hat-trick as Whitehawk produced a fantastic comeback to win against play-off hopefuls Dartford at Princes Park.
A brace from Andy Pugh looked to have condemned the Hawks to a tenth defeat in their last twelve games. However, Pablo Asensio’s side bounced back in fine style with Mills scoring three times, including in stoppage time to give the Hawks the lead, before Scott Neilson added a fourth with moments to go.
Asensio said after the game: “I cannot lie, the result is magnificent but the main thing was to get those players back on track. Even a draw with the same performance would have been a positive for us, but a win is even better.
“When you don’t win for a long time, you need the sort of performance like we gave today to pick up that win.”
There was little to choose between the sides in the first half, with the Hawks having the upper hand in terms of chances in front of goal. Mike West forced Deren Ibrahim into a save at his near post before Jake Robinson drove over the bar from twenty yards.
Mills then chested a ball down to West in the centre, who again forced a save from Ibrahim before Dartford had their first chance midway through the first half. Ryan Hayes played the ball down the right to Pugh, but his first time effort across goal went just wide of the post.
Both teams continued to cancel each other out, and with a draw at half time the most fair outcome, there proved to be a sickening twist for the Hawks,
Jack Simmons, an early substitute having replaced Danny Harris, went down far too easily after coming together with Nick Arnold, and to the visitors’ bemusement referee Sam Purkiss pointed to the spot. Pugh stepped up, and fired low past Craig Ross to give the Darts the lead.
Whitehawk’s task got a lot bigger just five minutes into the second half. Barry Cogan was given too much time on the edge of the area, and his ball through played in Pugh, who slotted the ball beyond Ross and into the far corner.
The Hawks certainly didn’t deserve to be a goal down, let alone two at this point, and they pulled a goal back just four minutes later. Robinson whipped in a perfect ball for Mills to attack at the far post, and the striker made no mistake from close range.
The introduction of new signing Alex Osborn also made an impact on the Hawks, with the substitute firing just wide of the post before sub Scott Neilson forced Ibrahim into a smart save.
Dartford, however, had a chance to restore their two goal lead after the hour when Pugh forced Ross into a good save at his near post, before the Hawks camped in their opponents half for the rest of the match.
Arnold tried his luck from outside the area, which forced Ibrahim into another good save before the Hawks were unlucky not to draw level fifteen minutes from time.
Neilson scuffed his shot across goal and the ball dropped to Mills, who got in front of his marker but saw his effort come back off the post, and Ibrahim did well to claw the ball away before it crossed the line.
Sam Rents’ corner was then flicked on by Sergio Torres, whose header eventually dropped to Osborn, and his volley was brilliantly saved by Ibrahim.
The equaliser came nine minutes from time. Neilson lifted the ball forward, and it dropped to Mills whose low volley beat Ibrahim to find the bottom corner.
At this point, there was only one team who looked like going on to win, and as the game entered stoppage time, Pablo Asensio’s side went in front. Robinson played in Arnold down the right, who fired the ball across goal from the right, and Mills was first to the ball in the centre to bundle the ball in from close range.
And Whitehawk made sure of their first league win since December 8 in the fourth minute of added time. The Hawks cleared a Dartford free kick, and Osborn did brilliantly to play the ball through to Neilson, who timed his run to perfection from inside his own half. Neilson drove forward, and one on one with Ibrahim fired past the keeper to give the Hawks a 4-2 win.
By Anthony Scott
Photos by David Hunt