Isthmian League

Report | Whitehawk 2-0 Cheshunt

With 22 minutes to go on a stormy, soaking night in Sussex, Joey Taylor stood over the ball 35 yards from goal. Few would have thought Taylor’s traits stretch beyond being a very solid left-back in his first few weeks at the club. But then, very little about this evening had been normal. 

Taylor’s sole job here was to swing the ball into the box, and hope that a head directed it towards goal, if not in the goal. At the base of a valley less than a mile from the literal Channel, tempestuous conditions are usually pretty bad here. They can be pretty good, too, if you’re cross takes a ride through the wind tunnel above The Enclosed Ground’s turf.

For over an hour, very little had happened. Taylor’s effort flies into the top corner; the Hawks are ecstatic, Ambers desolate. When you’re down near the bottom, often the ends justify the means. Occasionally you’ll have to play narrow, constrict the midfield, make it near impossible to concede.

If there was ever a game that looked certain to finish 0-0 by the time the whistle for half time blew, this was it. As the ball swirled in the wind like an umbrella in a hurricane, the hope for a free-flowing game of football had long since faded. And with a lack of width on the field for both sides, it was as if someone had turned down the gravity in the centre of the pitch. 

10 days prior Cheshunt had recorded a 2-0 victory over Shaun Saunders’ side, and what’s interesting is that both managers opted for a change in formation, less pace in attack, and more cautious approach. Perhaps understandably, given the two teams’ recent form: Whitehawk with two wins in their previous 13 league games, and Cheshunt earning two wins from their previous 10. 

And cautious it was in the opening 45 minutes. Charlie Harris spurning the greatest opening for the hosts in that span, blazing over the bar from 20 yards early on. Four minutes later, and Cheshunt had the ball in Mitch Walker’s net. A long heave forward, akin to Taylor’s in the second half, grabbed hold of a strong gust as it splashed into the netting. Flag up on the far side, Whitehawk bailed out. 

With a lack of fluidity it became apparent the best way to score was from a set-piece. Charlie Walker raised the hopes with a free-kick right on the edge of the box, curling it around the wall but into the side netting. The Din End rose. A few distant, hopeful yelps as it’s sent wide. The closest either side had come until four minutes before the break: Chevron McLean pouncing on a loose ball in the box, but sending it low and wide of the post with the help of a deflection.

With 68 minutes on the clock the evening changed. The opening goal was scored by Whitehawk for the first time in a month. Now they had something to cherish, to consolidate. It breathed a new lease of life, a release from the cage. The Hawks were free, cutting through Cheshunt now on their way to a second. Walker switching the ball beautifully to Charlie Lambert, the touch to set Rob O’Toole is divine, the finish delicious. Drilled high beyond Woody Williamson, there was simply no stopping this move of silk and style.

2-0. 12 minutes to go. Imran Kayani sprints onto the pitch in replace of Lambert. Whitehawk remain resilient. In truth, minus a couple of scares and an official’s flag, Cheshunt never really looked like threatening. Walker scarcely used his hands – a welcome statistic for a defence that of late might have been a little short on confidence.

Not here, not on this Tuesday. Joe Tennent scooping the Man of the Match award with a welcome haul of Dublin’s second most popular stout, he and Luca Cocoracchio were back to their very best. At the end there was a nice moment as Saunders shows off a wide grin. He is exuberant. And why ever not? Three points, two goals and a clean sheet. A performance that only improved with time, now it’s time to see if this can be replicated on Saturday, and move closer to where this team belongs.

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