By Isaac Gleave
Whitehawk were forced to settle for a point as they played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with Faversham Town on a blustery afternoon at the TerraPura Ground.
The Lilywhites took the lead on the stroke of the hour courtesy of a Harry Harding strike, but the Hawks responded immediately as Marvin Hamilton’s instinctive back-heel gave his team a more than deserved share of the spoils.
Manager Jude Macdonald named an unchanged side following last weekend’s FA Trophy victory over Barton Rovers and, as the rain continued to swirl around the ground in the build-up to kick-off, it was apparent that the weather would be a decisive factor in the match.
The early exchanges were evenly contested, with half-chances at both ends of the pitch. Harding had an early free-kick for the visitors in a good position, just outside of the box, but James Broadbent managed to collect the visiting captain’s effort at the second attempt. As the Hawks were beginning to find their feet, Hamilton fired over the crossbar from long-distance, in the hope that the howling conditions might cause issues for Luke Watkins in the Faversham goal. The hosts, who have started every league match on the front-foot this season, started to increase the pressure and intensity, and will feel they could have had a penalty after the ball appeared to strike a Faversham hand in the box, but referee Lewis Sandoe dismissed the appeals.
Lloyd Cotton received what was to be the Hawks’ only yellow card of the match after the midfielder was involved in a hefty challenge on the halfway line, before his side were presented with a good opportunity to take the lead. Henry Muggeridge slipped a delicately weighted through-ball to the onrushing Lucas Rodrigues, who went for placement rather than power, but Watkins sprang out of goal to deny the forward. Muggeridge, again involved, will feel particularly frustrated not to find the net on this occasion after Rodrigues had combined with Ahmed Abdulla to present an opening for the ‘skipper, but he was unable to convert.
As half-time was beginning to loom, both sides continued to toil in the harsh conditions. The Hawks continued to see the majority of the ball, but were unable to put it beyond Watkins. Rodrigues, dancing and weaving his way through the opposition defence, took aim towards the near post, but his curling effort lacked the necessary power, and it was an easy take for the ‘keeper. With minutes remaining in the half, Frankie Chappell looked to get himself on the scoresheet, but his looping header went over Watkins, and over the bar as the visitors saw out another Whitehawk wave.
For the second time in the half, Rodrigues was played through on goal after a fine defence-splitting pass by Muggeridge. Having been denied once already, Rodrigues chose power over placement this time around, but the inspired Watkins rushed out once more to deny a certain goal. A fine half for the Faversham shot stopper, whose heroics meant that both teams headed for the break with the score-line goalless.
The visitors emerged seemingly rejuvenated after the restart, as the Hawks were made to deal with an influx of chances, something that had been few and far between in the first-half. Stephen Okoh was given space in the box to head towards goal, but his attempt was unsuccessful, as it looped over Broadbent’s crossbar. Minutes later, the Lilywhites were presented with another opportunity; Sam Bewick’s vicious drive appeared to be destined for the bottom corner, but it took a slight but vital deflection to take it out for a corner.
With the visitors in control, and with Broadbent someway off his line, Harding attempted to take matters into his own hands as he unleashed an audacious attempt from the halfway line. The ‘skipper connected sweetly, but, to Whitehawk’s relief, the ball soared a few inches wide of the left-hand post. The momentum was in Faversham’s favour, and they opened the scoring on the stroke of the hour mark. The Hawks failed to clear a cross and, after pinball in the box, the ball fell to the feet of the grateful Harding who, having been involved a plentiful amount already in the half, finally broke the deadlock as he slotted into the bottom-left corner.
Having gone a goal down, Macdonald opted for change, as Connor Tighe was introduced for Cotton. That switch seemed to revitalise the Hawks, as they equalised instantaneously. Rodrigues powered along the left-hand side of the box, who sent in a cross. With Faversham unable to clear their lines, the ball fell to Hamilton who, with his back to goal, unleashed an intuitive back heel which found the net through a crowded box. Relief amongst the home supporters, frustration for the visitors who, after working hard to get their noses in front, had instantly surrendered their advantage.
With that Hamilton finish, the pendulum swung in favour of the Hawks, who went in search of a turnaround. Minutes after, Rodrigues was played in behind the Faversham defence, but Watkins rushed out of goal to deny the striker once more. As the hosts began to increase the tempo, David Martin came on in place of Lew Unwin, and he almost made an instant impact as his corner fell to El-Abd. The ball sat up beautifully for the centre-half, but his fierce first-time half-volley was sent a few centimetres wide of the left post. The Hawks continued to torment the visitor’s backline, but to no avail as they could not provide the killer blow.
It was backs against the wall for the visitors, who were effective in taking the sting out of the match. The final ball lacked for the Hawks, as Luke Emberson illustrated when his cross into the box narrowly missed all those in red shirts. With time almost up, Martin fizzed another ball into the box, in the hope that someone would clinch a winner, but it was cleared without difficulty, and the Lilywhites survived the onslaught to leave Sussex a point richer.
A frustrating afternoon for the Hawks, who make it three games unbeaten in all competitions but, on the balance of play, will feel disappointed that they were unable to claim all three points. A quick turnaround, however, as they make the short trip to Hastings on Tuesday night as they look to extend their unbeaten run.
Hawks: Broadbent, Hamilton, Emberson, Cotton (Tighe 60′), Chappell, El-Abd, Rodrigues, Muggeridge (c), Sobowale, Abdulla, Unwin (Martin 67′)
Not used: Okorougo, Blackmore, Osei Tutu,
Faversham: Watkins, Jones, Lyoubi (Spiers 77′), Pont (Brown 73′), Denny, Chambers, Biotelli, Bewick, Okoh, Harding (c), Ogboe (Hagan 79′)
Not used: Ibe, Williams
Bookings: Cotton (Hawks), Chambers, Bewick (Faversham)