Step forward into the month of November. The temperature plummets to degrees we wish not to feel as Whitehawk return to league football. Get those big coats out, it’s a further motor up the familiar blend of the A23, M23 and M25 to south east London; Phoenix Sports the final destination.
Dreaming of a win with the wish of placing those past issues of consistency behind them, Ross Standen’s battalion will hope to make it back-to-back wins in the Isthmian League with this venture to the side languishing at the foundation of the pyramid.
Last time out
Consistency has been the headache. A start to a season that resembles an unpredictable yo-yo. No clearer was this seen than in the previous encounters with defeat at Faversham followed by a thumping 4-0 victory over Corinthian. The Hawks were fluid that evening, sharp from the very off but last Saturday’s FA Trophy tie with Chipstead halted any possibility of momentum.
That’s right, Whitehawk bowed out of the ‘other’ FA tournament in the Third Qualifying Round after an inspired second half comeback. Just the one change was made from that glorious victory in Kent four days prior as a cup-tied Charlie Lambert was swapped for Stephen Okoh.
The opening half was the Hawks’. Adam El-Abd displaying his attacking prowess with a left-footed bullet that arrowed through the air before colliding with the top-left portion of the netting. Henry Muggeridge struck the post in the same half as his team were left to rue their missed chances. Return for the second dose of 45 and there was Kieran Lavery at the double to knock Whitehawk out of the hat.
It would be fair to mention that this weekend’s opponents have had little joy over the previous two months. Saturday, September 4. That was the date Phoenix Sports last savoured a victory, ironically arriving at the expense of Chipstead in the FA Cup.
But a run of ten straight losses see the club rooted at the bottom of the league with just one win and one draw from their opening 11 league matches. Their miserable form has come at the expense of manager Paul Bryon, who departs the club after four years in charge. They were swift in appointing his replacement, Steve O’Boyle, who returns to the role after leaving for Bryon four seasons prior.
Lekan Osideko’s six goals lead Phoenix’s scoring charts but, interestingly, they are all courtesy of the FA Cup. Byron Walker has struck three times in the league this campaign, scoring 37.5% of all their goals. In their recent affair at Ramsgate, Phoenix were beaten 4-0 as their -16 goal difference ranks lowest in the league, but still just the one point adrift from Whitstable Town.
The Hawks have met with Phoenix on three recent occasions. The previous encounter was shortly before the most recent Covid curtailment where penalties from Lucas Rodrigues and Ahmed Abdulla presented then manager Jude Macdonald with a 2-0 win.
The season prior saw the two clubs travel home and away with a victory apiece. Jeff Duah-Kessie and Ben Allen cancelled out John Paul Kissock’s first half strike as Phoenix escaped Brighton with all three points. But the return fixture had a different narrative: Dave Martin and Abdulla striking deep into the contest in another 2-0 win.
Two Whitehawk wins from a possible two at the Mayplace Ground, Phoenix enter this fixture with a fresh manager at the helm seeking a crucial three points. A win for the Hawks could see them jump up to 10th, with the hope of closing the play-off deficit at the forefront of their minds.