Remembrance Day, and a two minute silence impeccably observed by all corners of the Bauvill Stadium. But what will you remember from this restless, rambunctious affair on a crisp yet beautiful Autumn day?
Well, Whitehawk were defeated, for a start – their first such in the league since the opening day of the campaign. Almost three months to the day, and it’s a record that, on occasion, has been close to snapping. Sadly, that’s just how it goes sometimes. Yet on this afternoon, like the loss in Margate some moons ago now, there was really not much in it.
Chatham Town are a side resolute at home. They’re a well-drilled, well-organised machine, as was seen last season. This, a genuine battle between the two promoted clubs last campaign, was won by a single swing of a right boot. Manager Shaun Saunders spoke in his post-match interview of a slow start, gifting the hosts a goal and then improving as the match wore on.
But some might argue that the Hawks played their best football up until the opening goal on 37 minutes. Not in terms of chances created — those would arise in drips and drabs throughout the 90 — but in terms of how Whitehawk knocked the ball about with confidence, with assurance. There was a fluidity about them, and a patience. Mitch Walker was seldom called to action.
Hamish Morrison and Stefan Wright whizzed in a barrage of bullets into the box after finding themselves in fine positions, but that ruthless, fierce final ball was in short supply. With time edging closer to the interval, Charlie Walker was adjudged to have fouled Chatham captain Jack Evans in the Whitehawk half. Tensions rose as Evans appeared to kick out at Walker on the deck, with a cluster of red and white shirts being thrown about.
Both culprits received a yellow card for their actions, and from the resulting free-kick ‘The Chats’ had somehow smashed through the visiting resistance. Some neat play on the edge of the box presented Simon Cooper with shooting space, and he picked his spot by passing the ball into the corner.
1-0. Whitehawk flustered. Chatham, who had rarely threatened in this opening slice, were now causing myriad mix-ups at the rear. The Hawks have one final chance before the whistle blows, but Walker’s low-strike is palmed wide by the young David Aziaya, who had a superb game between the sticks.
There’s the half, and the first time Whitehawk are behind at the break since 19 August. A goal required to keep that record in tact. Shaun Saunders had evidently instilled a bit more belief into his players, as they began to take a few more risks as the November sun vanished and the low white lights shined bright.
Jack Dixon would find himself in positions worthy of a shot, but on both occasions those firmly-hit efforts whistled past the post. Chatham are a physical side, and one that doesn’t shy away from a bruising tackle. There were times were attacks would fizzle out, where Hawks were outmuscled, outmanoeuvred. Whatever it was, the ball just would not go over the white line.
Step forward, Aziaya. It’s a teasing, tasty ball in from Morrison on the right flank, flashed across the face for the sliding Charlie Lambert who gets a meaty foot to the ball. But Aziaya gets an even heftier connection, clawing the ball back from a certain goal — David Seaman in the FA Cup semi-final sort of stuff — as the Chats survived, and the Hawks left frustrated.
Dominic Johnson-Fisher and Ben Pope joined the fray, on for Ryan Worrall and Louis Collins who had certainly achieved their daily step count target. Both were good on the day, and their substitutes injected a bit more spice into the attack, but were ultimately cancelled out by a backline brimming with belief.
Tommy Brewer arrived with only a few minutes remaining, but the final dice had already been thrown. Whitehawk will return home without a point, will feel pretty bad about it before picking themselves up ahead of a Velocity Cup match on Tuesday.
That’s one way to look at it, but think a little deeper. Yes, games like these might require a more ruthless performance, but for all of this season there have been so few faults in this side. Games can’t always be won, but the mentality stays the same. The time to start another unbeaten run starts soon, and where better to commence it than the fortress itself.