Isthmian League

Report | Cheshunt 2-0 Whitehawk

As a flock of parakeets swept in over the top of Theobalds Lane and out into the still, darkening January sky, the calmness in the air contrasted the emotions on the pitch. It’s a third fixture in a row where those hailing from the Sussex seaside walk off the pitch feeling foiled, heads hanging. On this Saturday it’s victory for relegation-threatened Cheshunt. 2-0 it ended, yet this is far from the end, far from ferociously scratching a line through it. 

Whitehawk are a side out of form. It doesn’t take a maestro of theoretical physics to work that out. But it must be said — and this has been told in a past tales — that losing does not last forever. Soon enough it runs its cause, and the winning run creeps in. For some teams this might not arrive with ease, but for a side like Shaun Saunders’, that lost only two of their opening 18 games of the season, there is a squad evidently not playing to its full potential.

Seven defeats since 12 December have the Hawks flapping through a bit of mid-season turbulence. Victories over Horsham and Margate were brilliant, but the past two weeks have been difficult, and have sprung a very similar story. 

Since that December date the Hawks have conceded 20 goals, 14 of which have arrived in the second half. It was on Boxing Day, when Lewes came romping out of the traps, that the slow start to the second half seemed most apparent. A fortnight ago Whitehawk succumbed to a 5-1 loss at Wingate & Finchley following an opening half that was evenly contested and, in truth, should probably have seen Saunders’ team going into the break with a lead. 

This was even more dominant. Saunders expressed this in his post-match interview, and it’s absolutely true that had the Hawks brought their proverbial shooting boots, a 3-0 lead at the break could easily been a reality. For 25 minutes Whitehawk played some fanciful, delicate football. Charlie Lambert was excellent, harrying his opposing left-back as he saw efforts saved by Joe Rose.

Luca Cocoracchio, too, though likely not the ideal player you’d want with the goal gaping six yards out, spanked an effort an inch wide of the post. Charlie Walker had two opportunities to find the net, but both drifted powerfully over the crossbar. It was restless, relentless pressure but the goal never arrived. The half time whistle did, bellowing out across the sleepy Hertfordshire countryside, with the scores deadlocked, somehow.

Cheshunt had chances of their own, chiefly through Taylor Miles’ free-kicks and the occasional counter, though Joe Tennent was at his best to block multiple efforts. And as the crowd gathered in the warm, vibrant clubhouse the Hawks’ recent second half history gave cause for a few nerves. An early goal is always imperative to a positive result, especially if that ensuing period of 45 minutes does not echo the standard set from the off.

So this is where we are. 66 minutes in with very little happening as Whitehawk have the ball in their half. The flock of exotic-looking birds zoom into picture as the ball is given away to an Amber, and off they go. A run full of zest and direction ends with a pass across the box, and the action to knock the ball home is as easy as it gets for Nnamdi Nwachuku. 

Walker and Lambert were lifted for Tommy Brewer and Stefan Wright as the thought of defeat started to loom on the grass. The din from the hosts’ supporters is consistent, and for a club who had yet to keep a clean sheet all season long, there was plenty of reason to sing for their side. Wright injected a bit of pace on the wing, but by this point the legs became heavy, and the distribution proved less effective. Josh Nandhra joined the fray with time almost up as Isiah Noel-Williams instantly doubled the advantage. Cheshunt’s opening goal had completely changed the course of the afternoon, and Mitch Walker was helpless in denying his adjacent throng from rumbling. 

In moments like these it’s important for players and managers of any team, any sport, to be realistic. To understand a situation that is either swallowing you whole or lifting you up. Cheshunt may have started the day in the relegation zone, yet this time last year they were two divisions above the Hawks. There are good teams in this league, and there are good players in this Whitehawk side. 

They’re a group that belong here, no question, but kicking on comes with time. Losses often bring other losses. Wins create other wins. Tuesday brings another opportunity to regain some form, return some momentum and reignite the spirit. For this is a side who want this just as much as you do. 

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