Isthmian League

Preview | Three Bridges (H)

Rest? What is rest? It won’t be had here, as the Hawks play their second game in a 48-hour period with the ‘welcoming’ of Three Bridges. Ah, such fun it was in the last meeting between these sides at The Enclosed Ground, the rematch is hastily upon us.

It’s all been a bit of a blur, but for Shaun Saunders his side remain unbeaten after the first three games of the league season. Saturday’s draw at the Artic Stadium will feel like a defeat, yet the manager appeared unfazed and untroubled in the aftermath. It’s a long season, points will be dropped, there’s always another game.

Last time out

In scorching degrees at Cray Valley PM the Hawks came within a few inches and a couple of seconds of starting the season with three successive wins. Perhaps a tad fortunate to head into half time level after Ryan Warwick’s controlled curler made it 1-1 minutes from the break, but what followed was a rampant display.

Javaun Splatt recorded his second strike of the campaign with an adroit header that plummeted into the top-corner, and that seemed to be the difference until the seventh minute of stoppage time. Adam Coombes watched the bouncing ball in the Whitehawk box and swung a left boot at it, soaring high over Luke Glover and into the side of the netting to earn a share of the spoils.

The visitors

One of many clubs on that corridor to the capital, Three Bridges journey to The Enclosed Ground in fine stead after a promising start to the campaign. Narrowly defeated at Sevenoaks Town on the opening day of the season, Jamie Crellin’s side have followed it up with back-to-back wins at home over VCD Athletic and Lancing 2-0 and 3-0 respectively.

Still in the FA Cup after wins over SCEFL sides Whitstable Town and Deal Town, it’s been four wins from their first five matches to commence the campaign, with new addition Kieron Pamment finding the net on four occasions already.

After the departure of Dan Perry, scorer of twenty-two goals last year, Pamment’s form is integral to a side heavily reliant on the now Burgess Hill Town man. But goals do not seem an issue, and this third vs fourth clash could prove another entertaining clash (for the right reasons, this time…) with both outfits freely finding the net.

Previous encounters

Hmmm, you’ve heard it all before. First we’ll head to Jubilee Field, where the Hawks were upended by a 2-1 scoreline in Saunders’ first match on the road as manager toward the end of last season. A testing afternoon in the early rays of this year’s sunshine, Splatt provided the only goal for the Hawks minutes after Noel Leighton had given his side the lead, and Tad Bromage restored parity with a header on the stroke of half time.

And next, the big one: The Battle of the Enclosed Ground. It was draining and it was unrelenting and it was staggering, but at the end everyone could share a laugh. ‘Five red cards in bewildering loss to Three Bridges’ – to be separated by a lone Leighton strike. Here’s praying Monday’s action possesses a touch more quality, and a few clearer heads…

But this could be seen as revenge for the 2019/20 season, where Jude Macdonald’s Whitehawk triumphed 8-1 and 5-3 home and away respectively, with The Bridges’ Isthmian status spared by the early curtailment brought on by the pandemic.

There’s drama in this fixture. Not even Christ above knows what might be in store next.

Shaun Saunders’ pre-match quotes

“I don’t think they’ll take much picking up. They were quite buoyant after the game [on Saturday] and they were all very positive because they all had the same opinion: it’s a tough place to come, side’s will drop points here.”

“If somebody had said to me before the season started that after three games — beating Sittingbourne at home, Littlehampton away and Cray [Valley] away — we’d be sitting nestled in third with seven points I’d have snatched your hand off.”

“We’re disappointed at the moment but in a couple of hours we’ll pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down; Monday come can’t soon enough, we’re really looking forward to it.”

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