Isthmian League

Report | Faversham Town 1-1 Whitehawk

As the floodlights crackled above the rectangular patch of heavy grass the match on the field burst into some sort of life. A dull, grey day with the moody clouds sticking to the Kent sky, it matched the feel of the football in a goalless opening half. Whitehawk were quicker, stronger, bolder; knocking the ball about in the final third with accuracy and cunning, though maybe they should have tested goalkeeper Bailey Vose a little more. Faversham Town hosts for the day, they may be bottom but put up a fight they did – there would be nothing to separate the sides come the final whistle.

And with that final peep ‘The Lilywhites’ were serenading their battling brothers, Hawks trudging over to that strong throng behind the goal with faces frustrated, legs listless as captain Will Miles mentions the number of chances squandered in his post-match interview. It was only a 30-second conversation, but in every word you could feel his emotions with such vivid clarity. Whitehawk are left frustrated at the Aquatherm Stadium on a mild February afternoon, but for Shaun Saunders, who was absent on Saturday, it’s another point to add to the growing collection.

Michael Fernandes returned to the side after being away with parent club Farnborough in midweek. He scored a hat-trick, and one of the goals of the English football campaign, so expectations were naturally high. He was slick, stylish; the ball stuck to his feet like a magnet, the ground moving with every stride, kick, vibe. He’d have his best opportunity shortly before the interval, the floor giving way as his shot yards from goal is blocked for a corner. Tommy Brewer was away for this one, too, as Shay Leahy made his first league start for Whitehawk.

He was excellent in the midfield. Opponents feeling his breath on their necks as he narrowed the angles, switched the play. His roving partner in Joel Daly would be forced into the left-back position for much of the afternoon after Harry Shooman strolled off with an apparent injury in the 23rd minute, opening the door for Alfie Rogers to bolster the forward positions. The first half was the Hawks’ best half, though the territory and effort proved in vain as neither net would ripple until the hour mark.

Miles came closest to breaking that stubborn deadlock after hooking a half-cleared corner back towards goal, but his intuitive effort dropped delicately off the crossbar as Faversham were able to clear. The curtains fell over an opening half of much sweat, little tears. Toiling away, finding space, but lacking that final finish. For the supporters it was frustrating, naturally, but hope remained in the sheer number of chances crafted at relative frequency. Rogers’ dragged shot that slammed into the boards behind, it was the final say of a half left unfinished, as the 239 present disappeared into the jovial clubhouse.

Stefan Wright, facing his former team, was his usual unflagging self. Fighting for every ball and body, his lungs working overtime as he finds himself a deserved regular in the team on effort alone. But the opening goal arrived via the mighty hurl of Hamish Morrison, spiralling one deep into the box that Miles, sandwiched between two white shirts, flicks on closer to goal. The ball is cleared, but only as far as Miles once more, who rises intrinsically to head toward the far corner. The ball dipping just in time, it avoids the crossbar and meets the head of Rogers, who will claim this one too. Miles darts to the adjacent Hawks in a plume of thrown pints, someone offers a sip to Wright, the celebrations may have arrived a little too soon.

For you could count the seconds between goals on your palm. So soon after billowing in one net did the ball crash into the other. Sam Freeman had so rarely been brought into play as a weak corner from the right somehow made its way through a sea of bodies before Jacques Kpohomouh’s foot came crashing down on the ball, a fine touch to take it away from the clutter of confusion, and a finish that snuck past Freeman, then Luca Cocoracchio before settling at the rear of the net. It’s the old cliche: a bad time to concede, and rarely have those words felt so true as Whitehawk’s work for an hour so swiftly came undone.

Look to the past, where 105 days prior the Hawks had walked off The Enclosed Ground turf 6-1 victors over The Lilywhites. A completely new team, management; the one in charge, Sammy Moore, still covering the blades of grass astutely in those bright Adidas Aces. Sometimes you need an experienced leader on the pitch to drive your team forward, wafting and squawking at his team to do something. Faversham are a side in transition, pushing for every point as they strive for survival. This was never going to be a walkover, never going to show shadows of a once wonderful past performance.

A point apiece at this stage in the campaign is a better result for the lowly hosts. It may not have been the most convincing of Whitehawk performances, but there’s reason for their irritation. Three games unbeaten shows some sort of pattern, some sort of consistency; yet as the season starts to dwindle and the weight of the points increase, every goal scored should be lauded and lionised with the highest esteem.

The journey back home to Sussex will have been a quiet one. But keep the belief, the badge and the bottled dreams close by…for that lid is sure to be opened in due course.

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