By Daniel Shumake
I’m not one for hyperbole, but that was the best 1-0 victory I have ever seen.
Usually, the Uber to get all the way to the Enclosed Ground is smooth, seamless. Maybe one car has to yield to the side of the slim road to the nest of soaring Hawks. Not this night. Everywhere you looked, you saw red and white scarfs, and cars were lined up all the way to Wilson Avenue. As friends and family entered the land of the living, a buzz hovered over 700 heads and brewed in at least 350 stomachs.
Before kick-off, those in the ground were reminded of the preciousness of life.
All went to plan with the coin toss. In my last match report, we had lost a couple on the bounce, so it seems my painful Whitehawk hiatus brought back some good 50/50 fortune! Attacking the Sea End to start!
It was a hungry Hawks side wasn’t it? From the first minute, the boys were out for blood, winning second balls in the midfield, towering over Becks for headers, and taking on men on the flanks.
Whitehawk had steak, sustenance, solidity. The meat and potatoes if you will. Though, they also kept a sparkle and sizzle about them on the flanks. Both Stefan Wright and Joel Daly faced their fullbacks with confidence and completed numerous dribbles. For the Ultras, a visual feast!
In the opening quarter hour, Wright and Daly won the Hawks a couple of corners, which teased fans with the ecstasy of an icebreaker. Although, as can be the case with some Whitehawk matches, the ball bounced against a Hawk and a Beck multiple times before being cleared or falling to test goalkeeper Nick Blue.
Truly, it would be a tantalising half full of chances well-taken but lacking the final touch. As a supporter, one couldn’t help but applaud the effort from the Hawks. Not an ounce of complacency could be detected in the Red and White side. You just knew a chance would be buried when Whitehawk screeched downhill towards the Din.
Unfortunately, Harry Shooman went down before half-time with a broken collarbone. A real shame, too, as he was everywhere—absolutely immense on that left side Tuesday night. Get better soon, from one Shoey to another!
A good bit of halftime was spent waiting in the amorphous mob bottlenecked by slender passageways. Of course, having 702 fans at the Enclosed Ground does wonders for the fortress. It brings in money to the club, adds to an already league-best (non-biased) atmosphere, and gets the community involved. That being said, it’s nice to enjoy a coffee, chat with Kate about which cakes she’s made, and find a good seat in the Din on my own time. Such a process was expedited, but no matter! Second half beckoned!
Similar to the first half, Whitehawk stomped on the front foot. Stormed down the wings and sniffed out any Becks build up at the necessary intervals. In the Din, a comforting cacophony. Deafening delight. Fans were lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, shouting songs to spur the boys on. Whitehawk took these songs and harmonized.
Chance after chance required Nick Blue to parry and push dangerous shots from his goal line. One even involved Rob O’Toole going for the audacious overhead kick, which Blue tipped over his bar. The limbs if that had gone in…Chief, you would’ve had the naming rights to my second-born son.
In the 58th minute, the Ultras and players had perfect pitch. Whitehawk looked lethal on corners the whole match but lacked the final umph. Not this time. Alfie looped the ball over Blue, who got his claiming angles all wrong, and Nathan Cooper rose highest to head it home.
These are the limbs you are looking for. The resulting harmony was ripped straight from Simon and Garfunkel. Easy on the ears and caressing the soul with the gentle passion only available at the Enclosed Ground. What a scene! What a team!
Again, the Hawks kept at the Becks, cutting off any lifelines. Whitehawk came close to the dagger on a few occasions, but Blue kept his team in it. After a period of home dominance, the Becks ironed out a chance in the 68th minute, when they flashed a ball across the box. However, whichever deity you worship or not was on our side. Harmlessly, it sped out of bounds.
Into the final 15 minutes, the Hawks looked confident in their lead maintenance. Despite sitting back and soaking pressure like a handsome sponge, the home side still showed danger on the counter. In the Din, not an ounce of anxiety existed. And, if it did, the owners did a great job of self-regulating. The singsong squad knew advancing was their destiny.
Rabona O’Toole (cheers Isaac’s dad) knew that too and played with the swagger of a South American wonderkid. Joga Bonito, Chief.
The nail blasted into Beckenham’s coffin when late sub Malachi Hudson was brought down by Becks’ defender Rob Carter. A straight red and an early trip to the showers. In the again non-biased opinions of the Dinhabitants, it seemed like the foul was in the box. No matter, with 10 men, the Becks vanquished any miniscule, lingering chance they had to equalise.
The three whistles brought sheer jubilance to the ground. Fans jumped up and down, beat on wavering sheet metal, and activated the famous Din disco ball. It surely was a party and the players came to celebrate. Every face held a smile. The vibes were simply intoxicating.
To make matters even better, 5th ranked Hythe Town beat Ramsgate 4-3 on penalties, ensuring their place in an Enclosed Ground final. The possibility of promotion has me grinning with every click-clack of my keyboard. Fate is in our talons, lads, and I cannot wait to meet again Friday to help our Hawks grab what is rightfully ours!