You join us in the Dark Ages, presumably, as Whitehawk’s midweek trip to the town of Littlehampton is a somewhat shameful, sorrowful experience. Not for the football – the Hawks were sublime, but for the pocket of the uneducated few throwing every shade of abuse under a setting sun. On the gorgeous green surface the battle was sapping, nervy, merciless. A precise Charlie Harris free-kick the difference, the Hawks are off to the best possible start. What’s the best way to silence a section of bigots? Leave with all three points.
There was just the one alteration to Shaun Saunders’ side: Jayden Smith in for Harry Shooman. This dropped Joel Daly into the defence as Smith operated along the right-channel, harrying Marshall Ball with his pace and cunning as the Hawks flew out of the traps. Overloading the box, shifting it to the wing, playing through the middle; The Marigolds were left spinning in a heap as Javaun Splatt wins a free-kick 20 yards from the target. Harris to take. Eyeing a narrow portion of the netting the stand-in skipper sends it over the wall, into the goal. Beyond the arm of James Binfield, it’s a further swift start for the Hawks.
At the controls of the defence Nathan Cooper and Will Miles formed a formidable partnership. It was all about the fettle: a taut backline with everyone else utterly in tune. In front of the goal the hosts are a threat — last season’s total of 130 goals somewhat strengthens this — yet here they were thriftless in front of goal as Glover paws one over his crossbar. Not since February 26 had they failed to score in a league game; what a great shame that run had to end on Tuesday. There were chances, sure, but George Gaskin’s clinical ability had remained in the changing room as he poked one straight at Glover from a few yards out.
It was a cagey, fiery affair as four yellow cards were dished out before the break. On a scorchio of a Saturday afternoon it was Splatt who doubled his side’s advantage just before the break, but as the Hawks pushed for a second here the towering frame of Cooper came closest to celebration. Successive corners swung in, consecutive Cooper headers wide; that’s how this half finished. Littlehampton’s worst attempt at hooliganism on display as they pass the Whitehawk supporters on their way to the bar. Oh, how we love the modern game.
Unchanged and unmoved were Saunders’ XI who settled quickly into the second half. Still they pushed, pressed, pilfered in the host’s half, but could not burst through the bloodied backline. In attack it was Charlie Lambert, Ryan Warwick and Splatt who were trying to make things happen. At the opposing end the yellow blurs of Dion Jarvis, Aaron Capon and Gaskin were striving for a leveller, for something to happen. But instead it was Liam Hendy who left his teammates with hands on their heads, lifting the ball over the bar after sliding in at the back post.
Stefan Wright slapped the hands of Smith on his way onto the field. A bit more energy on the left-hand side to support Daly, who had played superbly throughout. Away from home with a slender lead the side it’s natural to drop deeper. Cooper and Miles were swatting away the showering of footballs as the clean sheet remained intact, but overall Glover was rarely put to the test. Splatt had a late chance to confirm the destination of all three points, only to smack the ball into the side of the netting after skilful interplay in the box.
Behind the Littlehampton goal the travelling support were mimicking the movements of their defenders, heading every cross, cheering when the ball is hacked away clear. By now the drivelled, mumbled noise from the home support had vanished into the night sky. Some tactical corner-flag action on display, referee Derrick Laing authenticates this one an invaluable, glorious Whitehawk victory. Elated faces from those in the red, and why not? Rarely has a side felt such pleasure after triumph. Back-to-back wins to start this season, the white hawk returns to its nest happy and honoured.
And to those who seek to tarnish it for others…well, my friend, do remember the phrase as you trudge back to your home: Love always wins.