Isthmian League


There are those occasional ninety minutes of football that make you sit back, reminisce and smile at the pure perfection on display. The shimmering cup runs have been a shining light for Whitehawk in recent weeks and there was little swaying those in blue on Tooting & Mitcham’s rough pasture on Saturday afternoon.

The Hawks were merciless. Unforgiving, unrelenting, unyielding. From the immediate outset they were in command, slicing through ‘The Terrors’ defence without hindrance. At the time of Henry Muggeridge’s adept low finish into the corner of the archaic arched nets, Ross Standen’s travelling band of paladins never ceased. For not eight minutes deeper into the cup tie had Javaun Splatt swept in a second, and then a third before the half-hour had even yet to arrive.

Throw into the equation a saved spot-kick and Splatt would’ve had a first half hat-trick. A commanding lead and only halfway home, Stephen Okoh confounded the hosts to certain drubbing with a cute attempt before Mark Waters spanked a consolation into the net. The Hawks were through, unrelentingly.

And so it was on this sizzling October afternoon, unnatural may it be, that there were few complaints about the wondrous weather as the contest commenced with a fresh face in the Hawks’ defence: Mo Kamara debuting alongside Adam El-Abd. Okoh was presented with a start on the left channel at the expense of Ollie Munt, who found his place in the dugout.

Jaunt back to the soggy affair with Hayes & Yeading and an opening forty-five minutes to leave forgotten in the distant past, this one was quite the contrast. From that first whistle they looked hungry, chomping at the bit as the hosts quivered under the immense pressure. So there, just four minutes in, was Kamara with the ball at his feet.

Eyes gleaming at an unmarked Muggeridge, he sent it long and forward. Where was the defence? Non-existent it appeared as the assistant’s flag remained down. Off went the ‘skipper, advancing towards goal and still bemused at the opportunity arisen, he slipped it beneath the diving arm of Gary Ross to send the Hawks on their way.

The Hawks’ high press would usually cater for space in the midfield but that was being swiftly filled. Every man was doing their job, everyone was on the same page. So too was Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke whose alertness was required to thwart Jamarie Brissett’s acute drive. Migrate to the opposite end of the field with the ball attached to Splatt’s feet as if on a string.

The forward was in ravenous form, skinning his marker on the left flank as he advanced untouched towards the goal frame. Calm and collected, there was no swaying the number nine as he caressed it under Ross and into the opposite corner, sticking it into the netting to the thrill of the elated hoards of visiting Hawks.

Tooting & Mitcham arrived off the back of a 7-3 mauling of Northwood but on this showing they looked as if they had remained in the north-west of the capital. It was strikingly straightforward. Okoh had been a lively character on that left wing — romping fearlessly alongside the touchline — he would soon win himself a penalty. A little jink to the right, that’s all it needed, as Okoh fell to the floor under a lazy leg. No hesitation, penalty awarded. Splatt walked over to the collect the ball and soon placed it on the white spot. He shot to the right but the ’keeper guessed right, punching it away as the 2-0 scoreline remained intact. 

But not for long. The Sussex side were deserving of their comprehensive advantage and the third arrived just as the half an hour mark did. Daryl Coleman was not coping overly well with the pace and tenacity of the Hawks’ frontline but he was left helpless by his colleague on this occasion.

A woeful backward pass was far from Coleman’s position as it presented Splatt with a glorious chance. It was a footrace. Splatt made up excellent ground over his man, whizzing up through the gears before racing past his man with the ball now at his feet. All that was left was the shot and, to the greatest avail, he passed is past Ross and into the net.

Eager for more the Hawks went in search of a fourth before the break. Hunting like wolves in ferocious packs it was Omarr Lawson who capitalised on another error. With the goal at his mercy he squared it to James Fraser. The bouncing, bobbling ball made room for a shot an arduous task but his effort was goal bound if not for the meaty leg of Coleman to spoon it away.

Tooting started with more intent following the resumption. They had too after all, it couldn’t have been much worse for south-London side. El-Abd produced a masterful block before Andrew Sesay blazed the ball into nearby Morden. And then came the stroke of brilliance from Stroomberg-Clarke. An excellent cross discovered Fabio Nunes in an ounce of rare space, who then headed it low. Stroomberg-Clarke dived down in a flash, flicking the ball up and away to safety.

But in this game those chances have to be taken as Okoh ruthlessly punished the home side. Tame defending allowed the winger with space along the byline and, untouched from the off, he nestled the ball into the side of the netting to further extend the mammoth lead.

On came Tegan Freeman. On came Billie Clark. The departed in Muggeridge and Okoh had ran themselves into the ground. On the far side away from the dugout, El-Abd was adjudged to have pushed Malachi Cole in the back, prompting the referee to point to the spot. Soft perhaps, it had little barring on the contest. Although it would make the decision of ‘man of the match’ rather uncomplicated. Stroomberg-Clarke had been immense, and it was he who telegraphed the penalty, leaping to his right to adroitly tip Daniel Williams’ kick onto the post and out for a corner.

The Hawks’ shot-stopper’s accolade was not endemic of the result as he made crucial saves at crucial times. This save from the spot was just the icing on the delicious cake. Deserving of a clean sheet, it would soon fade as Waters fizzed one from outside of the box which barely evaded the tips of Stroomberg-Clarke’s fingers. No matter, though, as this was purely a consolation, and the Hawks were deserving, convincing winners.

And that would be the final port of call. A glistening performance from all with a red Hawk embroidered into their chest. They were ubiquitous in all positions and ruthlessly clinical in front of goal. It is plain to see a worthy performance when the home following clap off the visiting XI but this, for all they were worth, was unequivocally earned.

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