Isthmian League

Report | Kingstonian 1-4 Whitehawk

It’s a sweet left peg, that. From the third minute of this afternoon, where the blue skies were wiped away by a block of grey clouds, Imran Kayani was utterly irrepressible. In fact, we’re likely running out of superlatives. He didn’t need to steal the show, for he was the show. Three strikes, three goals; a thumping victory on the road, the Whitehawk train continues to steam along at speed.

Now, it must be said, that this was a game that had the Hawks not claimed all three points, it probably would’ve been a rather poor result. Kingstonian are a side in complete disarray. Sad it is to see so few numbers stream through the Imperial Fields gates, perhaps that’s a sign to those watching from above that there are myriad issues plaguing this once prominent club.

Still, a game of football is started equal, and one must break through to seal victory. This was the third meeting between the clubs this season, with a panoply of postponements somehow making this the first league meeting of the campaign. Whitehawk had won the previous two, but they’d not exactly been a stroll through Mitcham Common.

And at the interval here Tutu Henriques’ side were very much still in the contest. They’d capitalised on some sleepy defending to draw level shortly after Kayani’s first, yet the second half effectively encapsulated their season.

It was one-way traffic. Kayani at its core, he’d provide the fine finishes, yet the build-up play was patient and precise, something that Shaun Saunders seems to have implemented into his side in recent weeks. The Hawks have been a resilient bunch following those late January blues, and they left south London for a second consecutive week with their heads held high, with a smile to boot this time around.

With three minutes played Kayani opened the scoring. It’s likely the least memorable of the day, with a sumptuous pass from Charlie Walker fizzing into the feet of the Pakistani international, who comfortably caressed the ball beyond Rob Tolfrey. At that precise moment many might have thought that was game, set and match, but that’s not really how Kingstonian function. Walter they did not, for 20 minutes later they were level.

Whitehawk had frothed out of the traps. The rampant Lloyd Dawes, Walker and Kayani looked to place early pressure on a side who tend to start things slowly. But they did hit back. Eddie Dsane arrived into this one having scored 19 goals in all competitions this campaign, and while he is likely to not be there next year, he continued his fine form in in front of goal. Seeing his strike blocked, he’s quickest to the rebound to funnel the ball through a sea of blue shirts, and find the bottom corner.

It was the first time Whitehawk had demonstrated any sort of defensive vulnerabilities, and they were left frustrated by a leveller that ultimately sprung from thin air. Charlie Walker had already seen a header expertly tipped onto the post in a rampant first quarter-of-an-hour, but now there was a game to play. Joel Daly was treated on the field, got back up before requiring treatment once more, and that would throw the curtain over his afternoon as Charlie Harris joined the fray.

Walker would see a shot slapped wide before setting up Kayani once again moments before the interval, though his effort on his left collided with the shins of Tolfrey to end the half with the scores level. There was quality, a lapse in concentration and missed opportunities for Saunders to mill over at the break, but the response as they returned was one of true merit and prominence.

Commencing the second half in similar style to the first, Whitehawk were on top in the early stages. Though this didn’t slither away from their grasp this time. Harris was stylish at the peak of the midfield, collecting and channeling the perfect passes. On the wings both Hamish Morrison and Joey Taylor grew into the game, shifting further forward to tire an already weakening K’s defence.

Lambert arrived, Joe Tennent had a header drift narrowly over before the pressure finally paid off. An excellent switch from Ryan Worrall allowed Kayani to surge forward. Gliding into the box, the angle was against him but the finish was elite: arrowing the ball just inside the post to spark delirium behind the goal. A cheeky grin to the camera, he knew its importance as the game mercifully opened up.

Kai Jennings made his first appearance for his new side, slapping the palms of the tireless Rob O’Toole to sure up the midfield. And within two minutes the afternoon was sealed. Walker had been presented with few sights at goal in the opening 70 minutes, yet he finished this one with real aplomb. Picking his spot from just outside the box, it nestled delicately into the corner to confirm the three points would be heading back to Sussex.

And then, the finale. Kayani had been brilliant throughout, and he earned a deserved and first hat-trick of his senior career by angling the ball beyond Tolfrey in similar style to his second. He’ll be jetting off to Pakistan tomorrow to join up with his fellow national teammates for the forthcoming World Cup Qualifiers, but today he was at his brilliant best.

It’s seven league games unbeaten in the league now, and come the end of every Saturday afternoon the table looks a little brighter. There’s still plenty of work to do, but these band of Hawks they are playing their best football of the season. Now the run-in ensues, with oh so many more points up for grabs.

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