This was one of the more unconventional pre-season fixtures. Not primarily for the fact that it was played a distance of 11 miles East of Loxwood in the nearby market town of Horsham, but for the weather in which this match was played in. It appeared impalpable on the exterior, admiring a fine Whitehawk display on an Indian summer’s night. Indeed, the warm temperatures look to be finally upon us and, so too, does an intriguing Hawks squad.
It was on this splendiferous Tuesday evening that Ross Standen’s youthful side put three past their Sussex County Premiership opponents following a clinical second half showing. It was the impressive Ollie Munt who opened the floodgates with a definitive drive into the top-left corner shortly after the restart. Ronnie Conlon would soon be bouncing with joy as he stroked the ball home for visitors’ second before a delicate Javaun Splatt header polished Loxwood off.
The opening exchanges, however, were fairly sedate. Both squads moving like pawns, waiting for their opponent to act first. The Hawks were in control, no doubt, with Munt regularly finding space with relative ease, but there was to be no only breakthrough. In search of unlocking ‘The Magpies’’ door, Splatt saw his close-range header brilliantly tipped to safety by the opposing goalkeeper. Alas, no Loxwood names were provided, but his performance between the posts was certainly worthy of recognition.
The ‘hosts’ did threaten on occasion. They were dangerous on the counter, looking to make the most of the Hawks’ experienced centre halves. It was from one of such breakaways that Nathan Stroomberg was left cautiously looking over his shoulder as the onrushing forward produced a speculative effort from distance that sailed a matter of yards wide of the post.
That seemed to breathe renewed life into Standen’s squadron as their football portrayed flashes of fluidity. It was the laser-like pass from ‘Trialist A’ that Demas Ramsis controlled with such elegance, spinning his marker before being hauled to the luscious artificial turf. A free-kick it was, one that was soon to be blocked as Leon Redwood tried for the bottom-corner.
Deeper into the first half it went as the silky orange glow of the sky was in full view. But it was the side in yellow and black that so nearly snatched a surprise lead. Stroomberg was solid, beating out his opposing winger’s rifled drive from an admittedly acute angle. Then, in an instant, the ball had found the feet of Munt who drove towards the goal following a Sam Wright flick-on. The fledgling midfielder was in acres of space, but opted to shoot from distance. His swirling, venomous strike cannoned off the corner of the woodwork as the Hawks did everything but score in the opening 45 minutes.
And so, out they came. The fabled 22 strode out as proceedings resumed. Supporters still in t-shirts and shorts, the pre-season feel had arrived. Arrived, too, had Whitehawk. A 15-minute speaking to from Standen had revitalised his side, as Munt would soon open the scoring. An imperious burst of energy from Splatt on the right-flank saw him speed through the gears as he raced towards the byline. A slick reverse pass set up Munt who, on his weaker left foot, conjured up an exquisite attempt that darted through the air before laying to rest in the goal having crashed into the upper-left stanchion. No chance for the Loxwood man in net.
A flurry of Hawks subs would follow as Luke Emberson, Lew Unwin, Omarr Lawson and Conlon entered the fray for the remainder of the contest. The latter would be swiftly wheeling away in delight as the winger doubled his sides’ advantage. Another free-flowing move, this time it was the delicate feet of Ramsis that twisted and turned his way into the box, firing the ball across the face for Conlon at the far post who simply tapped the ball into the largely empty, gaping net.
The away side were in full control, and a now insipid Loxwood defence was all that stood in the way of further trouble. Wave upon wave, pass upon pass, the Hawks were feasting. And it would soon be a three-goal deficit midway through the second half. A deserved third indeed, it was Conlon who sent a cross steepling to the far post in the hope of being dispatched. The towering presence of Splatt rose highest, nodding home at the ‘keepers’ near post as the Hawks’ new talisman adds to his fine run of scoring.
And that would be the final nail in an otherwise deflated coffin. Both sets of players looked content with the scoreline, and so the battle petered out with very little in the way of goalmouth action in the closing stages. A second half of real assurance, the celestial beauty of Whitehawk shone brighter than the gleaming beam of the floodlights. The foundations may well just be getting laid but – in this most primitive stage of the season – these signs of intent should serve as a caveat to those on the near horizon.
And so, the attention duly switches to this upcoming Saturday where Isthmian League South Central outfit Chalfont St Peter migrate South for the day as the Hawks hope to build on their encouraging unbeaten start to pre-season with kick-off set for 1pm.
Hawks: Stroomberg, Trialist A, Redwood (Emberson 61’), Freeman (Unwin 61’), Trialist B, El-Abd, Ramsis, Ovenden, Splatt, Munt (Conlon 61’), Wright (Lawson 61’)