Isthmian League

Hawks Impress In Football Fiesta On Sweltering Afternoon

‘What a day for a game, eh?’ To answer this question one only has to look at the body language of some of those huffing, panting, hands-on-hipping. A British heatwave: a novelty perhaps, yet when it mixes with the start of the football season, when the legs and lungs still have a way to go, it’s thirsty work out there on the piercing pitch.

This was a fiesta of football, a fête d’été, an ocean of sport at Worthing’s Woodside Road that would witness three sixty-minute matches. Winchester City the other tourists making camp for the afternoon, this full slate of meaty fixtures saw The Citizens up first against The Rebels. Much less rip-roaring than it sounds on a piece of parchment, Hampshire would trump Sussex as the Knights of the Round Table claimed the opener.

Whitehawk v Winchester City

Well, it’s a strong side, a Saunders side. In their rosy red garments they stepped onto an almost sparkling surface for the first of four 30 minute halves. A tiring, yet rewarding day in the Sussex sun would begin at precisely 15:22, just as Javaun Splatt sent a steepling cross to the back post for Trialist to skilfully flick the ball into the corner of the net. That’s the start, and that’s the result of having more than one Whitehawk shirt in the box. Attacking as a unit, the early blitzing of the Winchester backline had them failing, flagging.

Down goes Splatt in the box, ‘penalty!’ are the cries from the followers of the East Brighton club. After a peep, a point and a placement of the ball, Splatt scuffed his chance, shooting tamely at the Winchester goalkeeper. Still the bullying continued, robbing and harrowing an insipid defence the Hawks doubled their deserved lead through Rob O’Toole after bedlam in the box, getting just enough lace on it to crash the ball into the roof of the meshing.

At this moment the Hawks were everywhere, pouncing on their prey with a wildness in their eyes until the opposition began to wrest some sort of control in the match. In the blue and black stripes Ik Hill posed an ominous threat. On the wing and through the middle Hill was tricky, thorny to a side missing a number of defensive players. His first goal came after an excellent Luke Glover save diverted the ball into his path, and he simply could not miss. His second was crafted from little, yet on the eye looked slick and smooth.

Driving with the ball from the halfway line and into enemy lines, Hill looked for the corner and found it with a precise whizzer from 25-yards that left Glover helpless. In a flash the lead had vanished into the thick, warm air as half-time arrived to the delight of chilled beverages. A further 30 minutes to follow in the purging light of day, there’s still plenty more to get through.

The second period, however, was not quite like the first. A half-chance here, a glaring miss over there but, in reality, neither side looked likely or desperate to snatch the lead. Ryan Warwick came closest with a rasping dart that required spooning over the bar but, for long durations it was even, hotly contested with the only drawback an injury to Charlie Lambert that forced the winger off, hobbling on the plastic blades of turf. That would be the final say in a game of two conflicting halves: the first rampant, the other ragged. Worthing up next for the headliner act.

Worthing v Whitehawk

With a much-changed side in very much different colour strip, the Hawks returned in gorgeous azure with Charlie Harris, Henry Blackmore and Splatt required to play once more. It was an opening half that had the feel of National League South v Isthmian South East – Worthing had saved their strongest XI for Whitehawk’s blend of trialists and slightly spent starters. The result was intense pressure, but the Hawks kept their shape and their focus, right up until Jake Robinson calmly headed The Rebels in front from a few yards out.

Still the pressure remained, the visitors struggling to get out of their own half. With this beckons the long ball, and the youthful Toby Reeder was efficacious in blocking the bombardment with some well-timed offensive headers in the Worthing half. Swiftly the ball was recycled to the wings and to the middle where a man in red would start another attack. Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke receptive to the barrage of bullets that needed tipping around the post. The half time whistle mercifully sounded around a chilled setting. Hawks supporters in the stands singing with increasing volume as the afternoon sun sunk in the sky. Just 30 minutes of the day remained.

And, my word, have you seen such inventiveness and guile with one swift strike of the ball? By now the affair had evened out, the ball in the Worthing half almost as much as Whitehawk’s. But this thing, this speculator ingenuity engineered from the mere spot of the ‘keeper’s positioning instilled our forward Trialist to shoot from 45-yards, and expertly find the corner. All the football greats of the world: Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney…Charlie Adam, wither in comparison. The scores were deadlocked. The unlikely seemed possible.

Until, in the final few seconds of this breathless affair, when the hosts whipped in a fine delivery for an unmarked body in Worthing red to calmly steer the ball into the corner, and shatter the thumping hearts of the Hawks. Cruel, yet this wearisome afternoon was about fitness and desire, hunger and passion. A group of players striving for a place in that finalised August squad, they move ever-deeper into July with that question mark still lingering above. But one thing remains lucid before Newhaven come a-knocking on Tuesday evening: there is serious potential in this school of talent.


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