On a day where the Hawks simply could not play their usual style, Saturday’s hosts in Hythe Town snatched all three points via the head of Liam Smith. Luke Glover in the Whitehawk net had scarcely been tested but, as the full-time whistle blew, Shaun Saunders’s side are defeated.
Chances created through the flanks but what lacked was a poacher, a punisher. Following a multitude of cancellations over a two-week period that has been a little quiet on all accounts since the upsetting scenes a fortnight ago, we spoke to the manager to provide a bit of an update.
And so, Shaun, let’s start with yesterday. How would you dissect the performance?
“It’s a difficult one really, a tough one to take. I think percentages were all in our favour, I felt we dominated the ball, a lot more possession, but it was a tough one to take because I don’t think Luke [Glover] was really bothered all afternoon. They [Hythe Town] had one chance – I think Luke will hold his hands up and say that he made a bit of a mess of the free-kick, but it’s a difficult one because they’re quite a direct side, pitch was not suitable for us. I know it’s the same for both sides but if you play a certain way then the pitch becomes irrelevant.
We tried to play a little bit, it didn’t suit us and on the day, they had one chance, stuck it away and that was the difference, but overall I’m disappointed to lose but sometimes you’ve just got to dust yourselves down and go again.”
It’s not to say that we were under the cosh at all, same as we saw at Littlehampton. Chances have been created but is there perhaps a desire for more of an offensive outlet?
“I thought we defended well yesterday, dealt with everything that was thrown down our throat but yeah, we’ve got a little bit of a problem higher up the pitch in that we create a lot of chances but we’re not as clinical as I’d like us to be. We’ve played pretty much the whole season without a #9 – played Jav [Splatt] there earlier, who was converted from a wide player to a nine, we’ve played Rob [O’Toole] who’s a ten playing in the nine at the moment, we’ve tried Lambo [Lambert] who’s a wide player through the middle so yeah, it’s been difficult.
For me, we’ve got a problem higher up the pitch that we need to sort out. So, I’m looking to bring in a striker or two over the next week or so, because I think we need that. If you add goals to our percentages then we’re capable of going on a good run. We’re dominating possession but yeah, not clinical enough high up the pitch and that’s a fact.”
Almost into February just two points adrift of the playoffs with a couple of games in hand. Would you say that playoffs are the main target for you and your side this season now?
“Absolutely. Play-offs, from the position that we’re in now, has got to be our target. Same as anyone I would say in the top half of the table is probably targeting playoffs, so we’re no different to anyone else. We’re in sixth-place and in the semi-final of the Velocity Cup, we’ve taken some big scalps along the road to this semi-final so, I think we’re in a good place, I just need now to add goals to the squad, and if we bring goals to the table then I reckon we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
For me I’m pleased with where we’re at, and I’m looking to improve in the run-in on the progress that we’ve made since we’ve been here. I’m talking to two or three at the moment, hoping to bring one or two in so yeah, it’s going to be a busy week for me and I’m hoping to get a few over the line so we can be in a better place ahead of the weekend.”
Naturally the momentum has been halted somewhat by the multitude of postponements over the past few weeks. Is this something you think has had a negative impact on your squad?
“Yeah, it is! And not playing…we got into a bit of a run where we won three on the spin, and then we had the rain, the frost, a few cancellations and it effects your rhythm so yeah, it hasn’t done us any favours for sure but, overall, performance Saturday I felt we deserved at least a point out of that but I think it’s one of those where we draw a line through it, regroup, work hard through the week – it’ll be a busy one for sure. Me and my management team will be working overtime now to try and add a face or two – I think that’ll give everyone else a lift around us, too.”