Home at last. It’s been 29 days since the Hawks last strutted out onto The Enclosed Ground turf but come 7.45 on Tuesday evening that body of red will be lining up beneath the bright lights once more. A mouthwatering matchup between two of the league’s top sides in a competition perhaps mysterious to many. Imagine the League Cup but it’s just Isthmian League teams. Got it? Good.
Easy as that, though it’s a particularly dark and distanced journey for a midweek clash. Ashford United the visitors, entry into this cup is voluntary, though ‘The Nuts and Bolts’ may be questioning their decisions at the sounding of the final whistle. Not since the 2018/19 campaign have the Hawks been involved in Velocity Trophy action – that ending abruptly in an 8-0 defeat at Bognor Regis. Perhaps there’s reason so few have heard this competition’s name.
Last time out
Yeah, not bad. Following on from last season’s 4-0 pasting of Corinthian on their own soil, a new-look Whitehawk thought it wise to continue such goalscoring mastery with another four-goal performance. The clean-sheet lacked, but the result was the same: advancement into the next round of the FA Trophy, and a trip to Folkestone Invicta awaits.
Back to the game, and the Hawks were 3-0 up before the half time whistle had even sounded. If there were any question marks still hovering over the ability to score goals in the absence of Javaun Splatt, they were duly squashed. Joel Daly, Joe Shelley and Kai Brown all rippled the net to enhance the cushion, before a revival ensued from the hosts.
Oliver Box netted before Oscar Housego made it a tense one, but Will Miles powered home from a Charlie Harris corner mere minutes from time to keep those hopes of a distant trip to Wembley alive.
Ashford United, that’s who. A stern test for any opponent, the Kentish revellers have enjoyed a promising start to life following their play-off misery last season. With promotion in their grasp it was Herne Bay who were crowned victors, lifting them to the Isthmian Premier.
Buoyed by the return of their top-scorer in the previous campaign, Gary Lockyer, the forward has helped revive his side’s hopes after recording three goals in two matches. In the league Ashford sit in 4th position, a point behind the Hawks having played the same number of fixtures.
On loan forward George Nikaj has scored four goals in the six matches he has played since signing on an initial one-month loan deal from National League South outfit Dover Athletic, and there’s a maiden Enclosed Ground return for Hawks legend Henry Muggeridge, who is likely to feature in the visiting midfield after signing on at Homelands last week.
As history goes these two sides have met on just the four occasions, all arriving in the past three years. With two wins apiece there is little to separate them in terms of H2H, but after two consecutive defeats the Hawks made amends in emphatic style on the final day of last season.
It was Shaun Saunders’ first win as Whitehawk manager and it came with 10 men and a certain Jamie Splatt in goal for 75 minutes. Daniel Thompson gave the Hawks a shock lead before Tashi-Jay Kwayie levelled on the half-hour mark. But Splatt’s brother, Javaun, combined for the hero tag with a sparkling solo goal midway through the second half.