Matchday #39 on the season, and, well, it’s a big one for Shaun Saunders’ fifth-placed Whitehawk on Saturday afternoon.
To the sunny hills of Burgess Hill Town it is as the Hawks will look to place those Tuesday horrors firmly in the past following that heavy defeat in Chichester.
But this will be no stroll in the proverbial park: Burgess Hill arrive on the back of their own convincing victory after slipping four goals past East Grinstead Town at the weekend, the first win under new manager Matt Longhurst.
That new manager bounce exists and, for Whitehawk’s sake, they will hope the magic has hastily dried up with an in-form Dan Perry leading the line, and a familiar face in Kai Brown joining him in attack.
Last time out
Disappointment was the overriding emotion for that band of Hawks exiting Oaklands Park on Tuesday evening.
Missing Joel Daly, Charlie Lambert, Harry Shooman and Joe Shelley through injury, the midfield looked a touch different with Alfie Rogers forced to drop a little deeper.
Right from the off Chichester City looked the more complete, polished article beneath the shiny lights as they stormed into a 2-0 lead before the interval.
Shades of Sevenoaks Town, Potters Bar Town, Three Bridges – swiftly falling behind before failing to comeback. The omens were scribbled on the wall when you discover this side have claimed just six points from a losing position all season.
So when Khris Oti headed into the corner to halve the deficit for the second time in seven days, it just felt a little too familiar as Will Miles blazed over from just inside box moments from the end.
But in that time between Miles’ strike and the final whistle, the hosts would score twice to compile further misery on the Hawks, completing a 4-1 victory. Oh, and Tommy Brewer was shown a straight red card, along with Stefan Wright hobbling off after a strong challenge. Yep, this is cursed ground.
Introducing…Burgess Hill Town. A side who have endured a difficult campaign yet, as we breeze into March, things are looking a little more rosy for the passionate Hillians who begin a new dawn under Longhurst.
Former boss Jay Lovett had been at the helm since 2019 but, after a rocky season that sees them two points adrift of the relegation playoffs, the decision was made to release him of his duties.
Perhaps it was failure to utilise not only their top-scorer this season, but the league’s top-scorer as Perry’s 16 goals top the charts following his hat-trick last Saturday.
Home form significantly worse than on their travels, the Hillians have won just three matches on home soil in the league all season, with the last one arriving on December 3.
Brown is likely to start alongside Perry, but it is in the defence where Longhurst will need to strenghthen: shipping 22 goals in their previous nine matches won’t win you many games, but the early signs for our mid-Sussex friends are certainly looking a little brighter.
We have a rather long history with The Hillians, unsurprisingly, but we’ll just keep it contemporary to not overwhelm you on a Friday afternoon.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the two clubs have met on six occasions, with Whitehawk edging the head-to-head record with three wins to Burgess Hill’s one win, with the other two resulting in goalless draws.
And a goalless affair is how the reverse fixture played out as The Enclosed Ground witnessed a frenetic 0-0 with both goalkeepers coming out on top for the second consecutive season on the hallowed sloped turf.
In fact, despite the fine record Whitehawk boast against tomorrow’s opponents, the Hawks have drawn a blank in each of their previous three meeting with The Hillians. Make of that what you will….