At the next rising of the sun, Whitehawk return to pastures familiar hoping, looking, willing for that twinkling unbeaten run to be stretched deeper into November, into the unknown. From the south Kent coastline our opponents Hythe Town journey playing to cause a stir in the upper echelons of the league table, but have yet to win away from home since September 20.
At The Enclosed Ground the Hawks have been imperious: without defeat all season long, 17 of the 22 goals scored in the league have been recorded in East Brighton. A fortress indeed, few who have stepped foot in the visiting changing room have left it pleased at the day’s end. Always brace yourself for the unknown, but revel in the current delights Shaun Saunders is offering our loyal, growing fanbase.
Last time out
It was another scintillating affair. In favour of Whitehawk, naturally, VCD Athletic the hapless tourists on Tuesday evening as the Hawks splashed the netting on four occasions. No doubt aided by Jack Holland’s cat-like instinct to paw the ball away from a certain goal, it was to the dismay of his colleagues that it was not their goalkeeper making such an action, and rather their left-back.
Down to ten men with 14 minutes played, Joe Shelley did that thing he does and scored from the spot – his ninth (!) goal of the campaign. And from there the typical onslaught ensued; captain Rob O’Toole continuing his scintillating form with a fine finish into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards.
With Saunders’ side firmly in command it was soon a case of how many. Nathan Cooper grabbed his second of the season with a close-range stab after a delicious ball from young debutant Shay Leahy, before Kai Brown made it 4-0 with a tap-in. Another day, another win; it stretched the unbeaten run in the league to a division-high 11 matches as the Hawks remain one of only two sides yet to lose in the whole of the Isthmian Leagues.
Cannons by name, they have yet to aim with devastating effect thus far with Steve Watt’s side sat in 13th position, four points shy of the play-offs. At their home of Reachfields they have proved a stern nut to crack, yet to lose in the division on their own patch but have won just the once as they set off on their way away from Hythe for the 12th time already this season.
A more insipid object on their travels, it’s been a rocky few months as The Cannons continue to slip further down the table. Humbled 6-1 in their last away trip at Chatham Town, it bodes well for a Hawks cohort that is free-flowing in front of goal.
It’s a welcome Enclosed Ground return for experienced talent Marvin Hamilton, a member of the Whitehawk squad up until the departure of Jude Macdonald in 2020. In terms of scoring goals, Johan Caney-Bryan is their best bet after the forward made the switch from Sittingbourne to Hythe in the Summer after recording 14 goals in all competitions last year, and has already struck on an impressive eight occasions this time around.
There’s been a few intense affairs between these two, and perhaps most notably in 2019 as the nine-man Hawks secured a 1-0 victory with the help of a lone Duane Ofori-Acheampong strike. In last season’s meetings Whitehawk were victims of travelling the length of the East Sussex / West Kent coastline to discover the match postponed due to the howling rains and winds but, when the match did finally happen, a James Fraser double was not enough as Riley Alford’s last gasp dink settled the scores at 2-2.
For Saunders this game will bring back a particular memory. Perhaps not a great one, but an important one as his first game in charge of the Hawks was in last season’s return fixture. The visitors claimed a deserved 2-0 victory in what was not the finest game played at The Enclosed Ground…but it’s certainly a useful marker to see how far this club have come in just a few months.