Isthmian League

Preview | Ashford United (A)

It’s a big one. Even this early into the expedition, as the table continues to turn with each passing Saturday, followers of Whitehawk will know just how large a statement it would be if Shaun Saunders’ side were to travel back to the Sussex coast three points richer.

They showed on Tuesday evening that they are capable of competing with teams not only in a higher position, but in a higher league. Horsham were rocked by a frenetic, cohesive Whitehawk that earned progression to the next stage of the Velocity Cup. But back to the league, and back to where it all matters: arguably Saunders’ sternest test yet.

Last time out

For the revellers who made the dark drive to Horsham on Tuesday evening their commitment was truly rewarded in an entertaining affair at Hop Oast. Even after going a goal down five minutes into the tie — Jack Mazzone notching his first of the night — the Hawks responded brilliantly.

As is customary, Joe Shelley scored from the penalty-spot after Rob O’Toole was felled in the box, and Stefan Wright added to his own cup scoring tally with a close-range finish after fine work from Joel Daly along the left byline.

A goal up and soon a man up; Alex Malins was the best player on the pitch in the opening half but was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence. Mazzone equalised a little later, but returning Hornet Will Miles had the last laugh: heading home in front of his ecstatic supporters to slip his side into the Fourth Round, where either Hastings United or Corinthian Casuals await at The Enclosed Ground.

The hosts

39 days ago Whitehawk were stepping off The Enclosed Ground turf worthy 4-0 winners over a slightly weakened Ashford United. Visiting manager Tommy Warillow did make changes to his side on that September evening as the Hawks controlled the contest from the very first minute.

But in the league ‘The Nuts and Bolts’ have posed a frightful presence, losing just one of their opening 10 league matches: a lone, surprising defeat at Faversham Town. Unbeaten in their last seven in the league, Warillow’s only defeat at home in 90 minutes arrived early into October, with Kings Langley claiming a 2-1 FA Trophy victory.

It’s a rather recognisable midfield, too, that has since included Omarr Lawson, a stalwart of the central pack under Ross Standen last campaign, alongside Whitehawk legend Henry Muggeridge. In terms of goals, well, George Nikaj leads the club’s scoring charts with 9 in all competitions, whilst the returning Gary Lockyer has 8 on the season.

Previous encounters

The recent 4-0, of course, but there’s one meeting that carries a bit more juice to it. On the final day of last season Saunders, still very much a fresh face in the Whitehawk dugout, travelled to Homelands hoping to take a victory into the looming offseason.

Early into that breezy April afternoon an injury to Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke forced midfield man Jamie Splatt to wear the gloves for the near duration. Defensively epic were Whitehawk, Dan Thompson opened the scoring before the hosts hit back, but a fine individual goal from Javaun Splatt made it a day for the Splatt’s, and a day for Saunders who earned his first win at the helm of the Hawks in memorable fashion.

Even now, as we move into November, the Hawks are yet to lose in 90 minutes since April 15.

And – lucky you! – you can read what manager Saunders had to say in preparation for his side’s next visit to Homelands by clicking here:

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