Switch on the lights, open the gates, pour those pints; a monumental battle awaits Shaun Saunders and his Whitehawk side on Saturday afternoon.
It’s 1st vs 3rd as former Gillingham manager Steve Lovell brings his herd of Rams to The Enclosed Ground, looking to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Victory for The Hawks could see them go top if Chatham Town are to not win, but there is much of this season left with many a twist and turn yet to be unveiled. For Whitehawk that home form has carried them to where they are now, but are still to face anyone in the current top six on home soil. A stern test after Wednesday’s Senior Cup exit, the focus shifts permanently onto the league (and the Velocity Cup…).
Last time out
In temperatures one might describe as freezing, SCFL side Newhaven made the short trip along the coast for a spot of Sussex Senior Cup action. And, fair play to them – they counter-attacked with precision in a second half where the Hawks huffed and puffed shooting uphill.
Charlie Harris did his thing from a free-kick 25 yards out: firing it into the corner via a faint deflection, but a smart finish from James Rhodes into new Whitehawk ‘keeper Dan Purdue’s net brought the visitors level. With Luke Glover dropping out through a slight injury, Purdue’s defence was broken again as they allowed Lee Robinson to race through and slip the ball between the legs and into the netting behind.
Whitehawk responded brightly but could find no other way past Roman Chiosa; Rob O’Toole and Joe Shelley coming close with the former crashing a header against the crossbar. Newhaven advance, it’s The Hawks’ first defeat at home all season as they march into Saturday eager to return to winning ways.
Winning 10 of their opening 15 league games, it’s been a fine start to the campaign for Lovell’s Rams as they sit top of the pile, three points ahead of the Hawks having played a game more. A side unmistakably strong, they have thrown up the odd curious result, including a 2-0 defeat at Littlehampton Town in their previous match on the road.
But returning to victory on Saturday with a 3-2 win over promotion rivals Ashford United, The Rams arrive with a degree of confidence as they play in search of extending their lead at the top.
The league’s most prolific in front of goal, Ashley Miller has been an integral component in the attacking line with seven league goals, whilst roving midfield Tijan Jadama has four. An assured test for a Whitehawk defence that is hoping to welcome back Will Miles, who made the bench in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Corinthian.
Following an exceptionally long win drought on home soil, Ross Standen’s team produced one of their most important victories in a 2-1 turnaround win against Ramsgate in the last meeting between the two sides. Javaun Splatt capitalised on a defensive error to equalise after the break before a vicious Ashley Wadhams thunderbolt helped the Hawks in their effort to secure safety.
The reverse fixture told a different tale with The Rams completing a 3-1 win after Omarr Lawson had given his Hawks a surprising lead early on. And that was the scoreline in the only other recent encounter two seasons prior; Whitehawk racing to victory on December 7th, 2019 courtesy of a Lucas Rodrigues quickfire double and a lone Kacsper Lopata strike.