As the 57th minute arrived a stream of blue fury bubbled around The Enclosed Ground. With a rare route to goal Yahaya Bamba accelerates beyond Adam El-Abd, and is hauled down in the box. Before this distinct point to the chalk spot there was little to type, to ponder, to consider. And yet despite the banality that stood before them on the field, the noise still whirled around the beautifully sunlit setting. Noise from all ages, smiles from all sides – this Non-League Day will be remembered for the supporters, for the cackles and for the chants, and for the faces old and new, that will fly high above our home in Whitehawk for the years to follow.
You could see it on their bright faces as they flooded the Sea End at the time of kick-off. Basking in the March star above the elements delivered. To match the tempo of the roaring Ultras the Hawks had to implement some zip and zest. Get the ball down, use the wings, spray it across goal. A hint of foreshadowing giving way to that yellow orb spending far too much time in the air, exclaimed every centre-halve, probably. It was attritional, rugged, messy, but that did not matter. As glorious it is to see those red nets bulge to the soundtrack of sweet harmony, there were finer things at hand.
Sevenoaks the opposition, victory for those north-north-west Kent residers would drag them away from the murky darkness of our division. Even after Whitehawk’s recent spate of splendid form there was still a significant task ahead of them. So too for Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke, who after a shoddy back-pass was burdened with the responsibly of thwarting the speedy Freddie Parker. The ol’ one-on-one, Parker beats the one with the gloves and is felled in the process. Goal-kick. Moving swiftly on.
And as the interval beckoned with the quench for a pint brimming to new extremes the Hawks began to find their feet. The overlaps in effect, Olly Munt fizzing a cross in front of Tyler McCarthy’s frame only required a touch, a gamble, an instinct as it whistled off the field, evidently needing a drink itself. Rolling off the turf with the scoreline unchanged, it had not been your classic clash. But as the sides swapped and the slope switched to favour Ross Standen’s clump of red that feeling of hope remained. Now they were attacking the Din. Good things happen at the sight of those words.
Returning for the main course were the respective revellers and players desperate for something. Hmm, perhaps not at that end, though. With the contest reaching its peak and the sun starting to sink El-Abd decided to spice things up. Beaten for pace in the box a flailing arm strikes Bamba’s body, sending the forward tumbling to the deck as El-Abd looks anxiously back at the referee. Whistle. Penalty. Saved! Goal. Ah. Stroomberg-Clarke guesses correctly, falling to his right, but the rebound is gobbled up by Bamba, who simply could not miss.
Right, substitutions. With limits on attacking weapons the arsenal lacked. James Fraser the only offensive outlet loitering on the bench, he would replace Dan Thompson as the cog in Sevenoaks’ final third. But still that first touch lacked, the simple pass drifting off the pitch. Frustration boiling over in the Spring heat, The Oaks’ retreat was not met with enough fury. Conviction lacking, those in the Din with flags swooping from left to right willing their team on. It was not until the 88th minute that bums began to move, hearts started to race. Javaun Splatt slicing an effort wide as it crashes into the advertising hoardings was as close as his side had come.
Then it was El-Abd’s time for redemption. Nosebleed dripping from nostril as he makes camp in the visitors’ box, a slick move ends in the Egyptian’s right boot smacking the ball mightily wide when the goal gaped. Arguably not the one you want taking the shots at that time of the afternoon, yet now the pressure had built. Chiselling away at the backline it was just too late. Outstretched arms from those in blue and black as the whistle sounds, signs of disappointment, dejection from the other eleven.
A McCarthy clean sheet, A Whitehawk defeat. 613 supporters swarmed to East Brighton in the hope of Saturday entertainment. They found it. Not on the pitch but in the stands, on the seats, and in the air we breathe. Rarely has the spirit of this club been so vivid, so clear to the eyes that danced away the day. Fresh faces sure to return, there are always positives in defeat.