To Horsham it is on this swirling, whirling November day as the winds and rains come at you sideways. Reminders of that stormy evening in Tilbury flood back into the brain, but grateful now to be playing on a plastic pitch.
Flying into tonight on the back of an extraordinary 6-1 victory over Faversham Town, Whitehawk’s season has been one of merit as we switch from league to the Velocity Cup, looking to cause an upset against a side from the division above.
The cup that keeps on giving, it’s a return to familiar settings for Charlie Harris, Rob O’Toole, Will Miles and Joe Shelley – all of whom have worn the yellow and green in recent seasons. Extra incentive, if it was ever required, for the Hawks who have already won twice in this competition following wins over Tilbury and Ashford United. A place in the 4th Round lies at stake…
Last time out
A brilliant, blistering victory over ‘The Lilywhites’ on Saturday afternoon extended Shaun Saunders’ side’s unbeaten streak in the league to nine matches, the only side in the division yet to taste the sour tinge of defeat. And it all began in the 12th minute: Charlie Lambert volleying home beautifully after a Harris corner dropped to him at the rear of the pack. O’Toole doubled the lead with a close-range prod into corner before a wonderful Nathan Cooper net-piercer made it three before the 25th minute.
With the Hawks in utter command, it was the visitors to strike next: Bradley Schafer guiding his header beyond the outstretched hand of Luke Glover to give his side a glimmer of hope as half-time arrived soon afterwards. But from then on it all about Whitehawk.
Rampant and ravenous, Joel Daly added the fourth from a few yards out shortly prior to a Harris header that spawned from some Stefan Wright brilliance. And the dominant 6-1 scoreline was complete minutes from the end as O’Toole grabbed his second after a Shelley pull-back in the box.
The result sends Saunders’ squad up to 4th in the table ahead of Saturday’s huge league clash at the home of Ashford United, but first it’s to Horsham and the Velocity Cup as the route to golden prosperity takes a new diversion.
Familiar to many, it’s surprising that the two teams have never met in a league game. The last time the Hawks and Hornets met in a competitive capacity was the Sussex Senior Cup in 2016. Sat in 10th position in the Isthmian Premier Division, the mid-Sussex hosts move into this match feeling the gloom of two successive defeats, with two victories from their previous nine matches.
Knocked out of the FA Trophy by Folkestone Invicta on Saturday afternoon, it would have been back-to-back cup matches for the Hawks against Horsham had Saunders’ Hawks triumphed on penalties in that early October encounter in Kent.
It’s the first time Lucas Rodrigues will face his old employers after moving to Horsham in 2020 and, after a slow start to life at Hop Oast last season, the clinical forward has notched three goals in all competitions already this campaign, half his total from last season. Jack Mazzone is the club’s top scorer with seven, though has yet to find the net since September 20th.
After scoring 17 goals in the opening seven matches of the season, the Hornets have since struggled for goals, recording nine in the nine games that have followed. Conflicting form ahead of tonight’s clash, then, as the rain gathers pace.