So here we go: Whitehawk leaping into a new year in 14th position, wishing to dislodge the heavy burden of misfortune and inconsistency that has plagued Ross Standen’s side throughout. A year that, in terms of football on the pitch, only began in the Summer months. The shortage of playing time no favour to the performances, we have seen stark contrasts in play – sometimes electrifyingly dazzling, other times deprived of goal scoring prowess.
Take our last fixture, for example: Hastings United moving west and moving top with their 1-0 victory over the Hawks earlier in the week. By no means were the hosts outplayed — far from it in fact — but that sense of familiarity creeped in when Finn O’Mara tapped home the U’s opener, as Whitehawk were once more incapable of salvaging a point from a losing position.
But a fresh opportunity awaits: Haywards Heath next on the agenda, injured talents soon to return, as a current squad of quality is soon to expand – and with that it can only parade positivity in amongst the rustic stands of The Enclosed Ground.
Last time out
The hallowed turf at the foot of the great East Brighton slope welcomed its largest attendance of the season as 479 fans flocked for this fabled Sussex derby. Hastings in formidable form, conquerers of the four league games that preceded Monday’s clash, Gary Elphick’s men would make it five straight wins without conceding after narrow escape.
O’Mara on hand minutes before the half time whistle, it would be pushed deep into the memory as a breathless second half would follow. Missed penalties, clear-cut chances and a red card, all in a brief span that would see Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke lionised and Javaun Splatt ignominious.
A red in the face of Splatt, his departure appeared to reinvigorate the Hawks, but Omarr Lawson could not quite squeeze the ball home, and neither could the rest of his colleagues. To the league’s summit Hastings moved, a tad fortuitous for a unit under intense pressure for much of the second portion of the contest.
Moving swiftly on from Hastings, it’s time for another team beginning with the letter ‘H’. That’s it, Haywards Heath Town, blissfully not too far for some sore heads to travel to. Point the compass north towards the county’s centre, ish, and soon the league’s fourth placed side emerge from within the dense cluster of housing.
A side who sat atop the standings for a large slice of the campaign, ‘The Blues’ have dipped a touch in form, winning two of their previous eight Isthmian League fixtures. Three defeats over this recent stretch, they had lost just once previously in the eleven games prior to this run.
So a slight drop in form but make little mistake, Shaun Saunders’ side have been a menace in front of the opposition goal. Finding the net on 35 occasions, they have been rather evenly shared: Jerson Dos Santos’ six lead their charts, whilst Josh Clack, Sam Remfry and Luke Robinson all have four on the season. A 1-1 draw at rivals Burgess Hill Town in their previous battle on December 27, Tom Gilbert was there late on to rescue a point.
One must travel back little over two years to find the previous encounter between Whitehawk and Haywards Heath Town. Both starting XI’s looking desperately unfamiliar, Luke Emberson and Henry Muggeridge the only names still flying the white hawk. The game finished 2-2, all four strikes being recorded in the final thirty minutes as Ahmed Abdulla and Muggeridge’s finishes were only enough for a point as Callum Saunders scored with seven minutes remaining.