Few goalless affairs are usually this entertaining. Were Whitehawk held to a draw? Were Burgess Hill Town held to a draw? Chance at one end, another at the other. At first glance of the result through the pixels and through the print it’s easy to dismiss this as one of those dreary draws but dive deeper into the reality to unearth something discreetly special. With dark clouds hiding a darker sky, the gloves of Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke and Taylor Seymour were seemingly possessed by a celestial power.
Just the one change for manager Ross Standen: James Fraser swapped with Charlie Lambert as the latter made his first start for the Hawks. Two wins on the bounce for the hosts, two wins on the bounce for the visitors. An air of value hovered over the TerraPura terraces. Michael Uwezu taps the ball away from the centre circle; the fabled A23 derby was underway.
And before long the efforts, attempts and strikes would begin to flow. Henry Muggeridge having the first of which (although it probably was meant as a cross) as he sought to wrap his boot around a fast-rolling ball from an increasingly acute angle before it sailed over Seymour’s crossbar. Yet that would be no caveat as those draped in lemony yellow replied with an attack of their own as Lewis Finney’s half-volley whispered a whisker wide of Stroomberg-Clarke’s right upright.
For much of the contest there were moments of sustained pressure from either side. And for much of the first half it was owned by Burgess Hill. To the dismay of those who travelled ten miles south to East Brighton, they discovered a goalkeeper in impenetrable form. Diving instinctively to his right, Stroomberg-Clarke pushed aside Connor Tighe’s point-blank stab at goal before that same ex-Hawk rattled the bar minutes later with a sublime effort from the corner of the box.
Under the cosh the Hawks were but their man between the posts swatted away all that posed a danger. At the fullest stretch, he leapt to his right to push away another close-range effort, this time a Finney header as the deadlock remained. Hands on heads in utter bewilderment, a raucous round of applause greeted the dexterity on display.
Only seconds had passed when the in-form Javaun Splatt — a forward who entered having scored seven in his previous seven appearances — found himself in space with the goal at his mercy after a lolloping ball over the top. But the feet couldn’t quite be adjusted in time and the shot was rushed. Seymour sprung from his line and saved with his feet as the yellow Mitre was collected by it’s similarly bright counterparts.
There was a slight surge in home momentum as the half time whistle began to beckon. Muggeridge lives for the booming drive from distance and he connected well on this occasion, forcing Seymour sprawling across his line to parry away a vicious arrow-like strike. Tick tock the clock progressed as the referee called for the break. No goals to discuss but a magnitude of attacks. What would the following 45 minutes have in store?
Under the tall, beaming white lights the football was a touch more taxing. Whitehawk attacking the Din as the noise sizzled around the scaffolding. It took time — twenty testing minutes in fact — before the excitement on the pitch returned. Lambert intercepting in midfield opened up space to drive into along the right flank. There was Muggeridge bustling his way into the penalty area as Lambert pulled the ball across. It missed the toes of the captain but found Stephen Okoh lurking at the back. The ball out of his feet, the effort was a little too tame and a little too close to Seymour as he held on with ease.
There was activity on the Hawks’ bench. On came Fraser, off went Okoh as the hosts opted for the direct approach. Tighe was evidently eager to impress his former teammates with a constant flow of long-range sighters that kept Stroomberg-Clarke alert. This time he struck well once more from range, forcing the Hawks incumbent of the #1 jersey into action as he jabbed it away for a corner.
On came Billie Clark, off went Lambert. The changes in personnel were in full procession as Standen looked to freshen up his attack. A tense finale was in store. Stroomberg-Clarke was to receive the Man of the Match award and that was of little debate. Reggie Ward the next to have a pop from distance and yet again the Hawks’ ‘keeper stood strong. Impressively accurate from fair yardage all night long were the Hillians, the ball was fantastically tipped over the crossbar to a sea of Burgess Hill disappointment behind the white structure.
By now the wind blew a mighty gale. The football was not supreme, but enticing nonetheless. Moments from the end and Whitehawk had a chance to steal the points. Mo Kamara had been resilient alongside Adam El-Abd for the duration, but he found himself unmarked, undisturbed and, as it soon transpired, unsettled. The ball dropped on his head but he could only guide it high over the woodwork. No matter though, a draw was probably a fair result anyway…
And so it came to be. 0-0 it finished. Wasteful a touch but take nothing away from the performance of two individuals. Seymour was class, Stroomberg-Clarke was classier. Both impermeable, stalemates are seldom this impelling. Undefeated in three now are Whitehawk as a voyage to the county of Kent and the town of Faversham are what lies ahead in the immediate future.