Too long has the 291-day wait been since the Hawks’ previous Isthmian League fixture — a narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Hastings United — that has catered for a renewed sense of optimism as the curtain that hangs over the fresh season begins to rise.
Since that icy night last October, it has been a combination of FA Trophy, Senior Cup and friendly fixtures that have provided Ross Standen’s side with the necessary minutes as the league opener with Cray Valley PM lingers in the direction of the capital.
The Hawks’ pre-season
The Hawks will travel to the Artic Stadium on Saturday on the back of successive defeats to Isthmian Premier League sides Metropolitan Police and Merstham. It has been a laborious pre-season as a healthy dollop of positives have coincided with a few wounds along the way.
New addition Javaun Splatt brought instant zeal to the TerraPura Ground following his Summer switch from Tonbridge Angels. Three goals in his opening three matches certainly raised some eyebrows as the 20-year old frontman aspires to establish himself to the league with great aplomb.
Impressed too has Ollie Munt. At just 18 years of age, the fledgling midfielder has carried an electric feel through pre-season. Scoring twice, he could prove a pivotal piece in Standen’s jigsaw for the season that ensues.
Adam El-Abd returns to the squad having served his suspension following his dismissal against Lewes.
As for the hosts, they arrive into this untrodden season having scored right at the death to record a 3-2 victory over Leatherhead. Three wins, three losses and one draw was The Millers’ story of pre-season as midfielder Rory Hill topped the scoring charts with an impressive five goals to his name.
Ade Adeyemo and Marcel Barrington both found the net on four occasions whilst Francis Babalola rippled the net three times. All three occupying forward positions, they pose a real threat in attack that is sure to keep the Hawks’ backline busy throughout the afternoon.
Although a limited sample size, Cray Valley PM occupied 12th position after their five league games last campaign that brought them to the league’s consequent conclusion. A fine FA Cup run, however, saw The Millers journey into the First Round Proper. A narrow 1-0 defeat befell the visitors as Havant & Waterlooville emerged victorious.
Last time out
It was a top-of-the-table clash. Travel back to November 30, 2019, where the Hawks, occupying second place, would be victorious as goals from Kacper Lopata – who has since gone on to make his first team debut at Sheffield United – and Duane Ofori-Acheampong handed Cray Valley their first away league defeat of the season in a 2-0 win for the hosts.
The return fixture was scheduled for the season finale which, wistfully, fell victim to the pandemic, as did the season itself. More history is to be made on Saturday, though, as the two clubs lock horns in this eagerly anticipated opener.