And it was on to Folkestone – with the rolling hills and polluted seas – where the chance at playing in the FA Trophy First Round Proper becomes very real. Not since 2017 have the Hawks reached the ‘proper’ rounds of this illustrious, iconic trophy – so quickly could that all change come Saturday afternoon.
There’s a way to go still but, as the white hawk travels east, there’s promise right up until the end. Opponents to Isthmian League Premier side ‘Invicta’ for the day, it’s a stern test for Shaun Saunders’ side who arrive unbeaten in their previous nine matches. Just the 14 places separate these two teams in the pyramid; it’s time to see how great the gulf between these divisions really is.
Last time out
Love a bit of Kent, don’t we? Always traipsing over the border, and last time it was over water, too, that the Hawks trundled through traffic jams and dull motorway to get to. To the Isle of Sheppey they rode with a point earned on their travels – a typical Joe Shelley penalty to give his side the lead, caressing the ball into the corner on 9 minutes.
But the hosts answered back with a penalty of their own: Billy Bennett making no mistake from the spot to hand his ‘Ites’ side a valuable point mere minutes after his teammate Jefferson Aibangbee had foolishly got himself sent off.
In the league Whitehawk remain unbeaten – winning three and drawing three of their opening six matches – as they sit soundly in fourth position ahead of Tuesday’s home derby with Burgess Hill Town.
For context, Folkestone are 12th in the league above the Hawks. They, too, have won three, drawn three (and lost two…). Heavily defeated on Tuesday night by a 3-0 scoreline at the hands of league leaders Bishops Stortford, all the momentum and rest lies with the Hawk.
Last journeying to Folkestone in 2019 when Whitehawk were atrophying in the Premier division, a 2-1 defeat befell Jude Macdonald’s side on that April afternoon. On the scoresheet for the hosts? Ade Yusuff – now back with ‘Invicta’, and back with dangerous intent.
Between his two spells at the club Yusuff has racked up 72 goals in 139 appearances, finding the net on 8 occasions already this campaign. He’s a threat, a handful, a menace to the defence. An ‘cupset’ lies in not letting the forward breathe, let alone shoot.
So…the aforementioned one, of course. The acclaimed Duane Ofori-Acheampong netting the Hawks’ only goal on that day. And In the return fixture at The Enclosed Ground a rather drab 0-0 was played out in front of 110 supporters. Yeah, not great.
But now these two sides meet again: an opportunity for many to sparkle with the shackles off; the pressure lies not with the Hawks, but with the hosts as Shaun Saunders’ side look to take one mighty step closer to the Wembley arch. We couldn’t, could we…?