Ooooh, it’s a big one.
There’s always that added talk, heightened intensity buzzing around the rustic Enclosed Ground when Hastings United are next to travel along the waves and over the hills towards Brighton. The one to turn an eye to upon the fixture release, 2021 is rounded off with a visit from our fellow Sussex foes in the most formidable of form.
Reverse it, and it’s difficult to make such comparison. Whitehawk’s performances of late have been incomplete: One win from their previous six often fails to produce such accolade. But rest is good, normally, as a nine day break from last Saturday’s misty defeat in Sittingbourne might just be the ideal recipe for a response.
Last time out
Dive deep through the haze to observe a messy affair. Kept seemingly secret from the rest of Kent, the county’s abyss reveals a cosy pitch soon to swarmed by a dense cloud of fog. The Hawks were wasteful in the first half, incoherent in the second as the battle burst into a flurry of excitement in its latter stages.
Harrison Pont’s arrowed strike fizzed past the tips of Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke’s paw before Ahmed Abdulla’s audacious genius from the halfway line doubled his side’s lead with added time looming. Javaun Splatt recorded his ninth league goal of the season moments later, but Abdulla would add a third for Sittingbourne to definitively haunt his former side.
A side that require little introduction, the U’s journey west with confidence oozing from their maroon shirts. Positioned snugly in third place a point shy from league leaders Cray Valley Paper Mils, Gary Elphick’s side boast the best attacking record with 41 goals from their 18 matches.
Four consecutive Isthmian South East wins without conceding, they have struck eleven times during this recent span of blowing their opposition away. Fresh off the back of a 2-0 home victory over Ramsgate —witnessed by over a thousand fans for the fifth time this campaign — Ben Pope would equal Splatt’s total of nine league goals, whilst also leapfrogging their deflated promotion rivals in the process.
Kenny Pogue has seven on the season, two ahead of the nifty Sam Hasler as goals are a frequent amongst their irrepressible front-line. And returning to his previous residence is Dave Martin, a constant in the Hastings XI this season with two goals and an impressive six bookings to his name.
Recent results between these two clubs have certainly not been in Whitehawk’s favour. Since the Hawks’ drop into the Isthmian League South East in 2019, there have been six meetings in all competitions between the Sussex rivals. Hastings have the significant edge, winning four and drawing two as Ross Standen’s side look to alter a murky history.
In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Hastings swept the Hawks aside with a strong second half showing that housed goals from Hasler and Pope to give the U’s their first league triumph. Eleven victories later and we arrive into today’s fixture, one that promises to be a squelchy, lively affair.