Tuesday evening welcomed the fifth instalment of pre-season as the Hawks hosted the neighbouring settlement of Saltdean following Raynes Park Vale’s withdrawal on Monday. It was the sizzling heat that remained the most engaging talking point, however, as the Hawks played out a second goalless stalemate in four days as a resolute Tigers side proved determined in defence and threatened with relative frequency in attack.
So, with a slightly increased number of fans in attendance and the lowering of carbon emissions inadvertently achieved, the ‘BN2 derby’ would ebb and flow as opportunities were at a reasonable premium. It was that final ball in the decisive moments that seemed to stagnate the contest with a flurry of overhit crosses ending a series of promising Hawks attacks.
If anything, it was the visiting side that looked the more likely to score in the opening half as Callum Saunders came close on occasion, whilst Javaun Splatt saw his effort saved following a one-on-one with the opposing ‘keeper. Whitehawk pushed for a winner in the following half but to no reward, gratefully bailed out by another resilient defensive performance as 315 minutes have now passed since the Hawks and Nathan Stroomberg’s last conceded goal.
Attacking uphill in the peak of the heatwave, the exchanges in the opening ten minutes resulted in little intent. The Hawks hoped to exploit the pace of Demas Ramsis and Conlon on the flanks, but it was to little early avail as Saunders attempted to re-write the script after cutting inside before unleashing a wayward drive that swirled towards the Din End seats.
There was to be life in the Hawks after all as Conlon dispossessed his opposing man deep inside home territory. Suddenly, the field opened up as the Saltdean midfield parted at the seams, providing Conlon with the necessary space to drive towards goal. This he did, but his curling effort never looked like nestling as it smacked the advertising boards just wide of the far post.
The oppressive evening heat appeared to stifle the home attack as the chances fell in favour of the nearby residents. Saunders was everywhere, covering ground in a spirit like fashion, he came within a crossbar of propelling his side into the lead after his looping volley on the turn bounced off the top of Stroomberg’s goal-frame.
And then, in the swiftest flash, Splatt would be ruing a missed opportunity. It had been a common feature, witnessing Splatt speed through the gears as he bore down on goal but, on this occasion, the ball would divert its path as his low, side-footed attempt would be saved by the familiar feet of James Broadbent. A chance certainly missed; it would cater for a further deadlocked half of football.
It was soon after that the procession of those in need of a refreshing pint made their way from the bar to behind Saltdean’s net. The familiar sounds of the cowbell clicking the Hawks into motion as a trio of subs in Rhyle Ovenden, Henry Blackmore and the fabled Trialist entered the fray. There were signs of optimism on the horizon but the execution lacked dearly.
Ramsis was bright, energetic in his quest to piece together a series of passes for an attack, only for a tackle or poor touch to deflate the hopes of scoring. The oohs and ahhs from the Din would finally be heard from all stretches of the Enclosed Ground as Omarr Lawson showed some desire to drive towards the box. It all looked desperately promising following his left-footed arrow-like attempt until it collided with further advertising to halt any kind of home elation.
In what was perhaps the more enticing stage of the contest, Stroomberg was called into action for the first time midway through the second half. A pass from the right was played towards the dangerous Saunders who shot at the first attempt from just outside the box but – as has often been seen – Stroomberg was comfortably equal to it.
And then, from one box to another, the Hawks’ best moment of the match. The ever-lively Conlon causing issues, he displayed proficiency to skip past his man before delivering an inch-perfect cross for the Trialist in the middle. But it was not to be. He rose well, rose unmarked a matter of yards from goal, but headed it down and wide of the right-hand post. That was the moment.
As the floodlights illuminated the glowing grass in the latter stages it was Saltdean who had more of the ball as another unbeaten performance was growing increasingly likely. There was further work for Stroomberg as he raced out of goal to snuff out a threatening ball over the top, before a spate of late chances would have hearts in Whitehawk mouths. The first, a deflected shot; it was struck well but the venom was averted as the ball bounced the other side of the post. And then, in the final moments; the celebrations were almost heading a few miles down the Sussex Riviera as another header was sent steepling in the air before bouncing off the crossbar. Exhale…
And that was to be the final word. So defined has the backline been in recent weeks, the goals have dried up of late. It was the service in the final third that was lacking a touch and, when it was up to the task, it was the conviction that halted any change on the scoresheet. The goals will re-emerge no doubt as the countdown to August 14th continues this upcoming Saturday as another local derby is in store. This time, however, it is town that lies on the Ouse as Lewes travel to the sunshine coast for a 3pm fixture.
Hawks: Stroomberg, Reed, Redwood (Munt 71′), Freeman (Unwin 71′), Cotton (c), El-Abd (Blackmore 46′), Ramsis (Wright 71′), Lawson, Splatt (Trialist 46′), Munt (Ovenden 46′), Conlon