What does Whitehawk mean to you? To some, it’s just the end of a bus route. Others might know it, and see it as a place to evade, with their noses turned up. But for an increasing many the estate in the east of the city is hastily being placed onto the map, spoken about near and far.
Since 1945 this club, nestled at the foot of the meandering South Downs, has offered the people of Whitehawk with a place to be proud of. It’s grown steadily, yet as its football club evolves so does the suburb. It isn’t just a club, though. It’s a community, a family. Not all that swarm to The Enclosed Ground on a Saturday afternoon are from here, or have even ever lived here. But that doesn’t matter. For as long as you brave the cold, sing the songs and share the smiles, you’re a part of this club, this circle.
It seemed all were present yesterday, where Shaun Saunders’ Hawks welcomed neighbours Lewes for the afternoon. Four years since the previous competitive clash between the clubs, this was the turn of the FA Trophy, with a number in the Third Round draw on offer.
A grey, dull November day with a faint mizzle in the air, dampening the visiting cohort more than the home faithful. Their spirits would also be washed away as the swiftly as the whistle for half time. A classic, brutal ripping apart of an opposition side, all wrapped up inside 45 minutes. Thanks for coming, see you again soon.
But this can’t always be a smooth, smiley affair. A back-and-forth, basketball-like opening, ‘The Rooks’ were the first to move as Ola Ogunwamide powered the ball beyond Mitch Walker to send a Lewes-themed Din End into early ecstasy. That doesn’t sound right, and evidently Charlie Walker echoed the opinion, as he took the game, and the opposition defence, into his own grasp.
With 25 minutes played Walker — the one in goal — delivered a mighty blow to the ball as it’s booted upfield. Feeling the geometry of the pass, Walker — the one who scores goals — did just that. Angle growing ever acute, a swift swing of the right foot connects true and perfect as it settles in the opposite side of the netting. An astonishing goal. Route one at it’s best. And the scores are level once more.
Then they weren’t. Walker driving into the box on 36 minutes, effortlessly gliding across the dewy grass like an olympic skater, is clipped by the guilty Harvey Hughes. Penalty awarded, and penalty dispatched. A man of experience, and a man on a mission. Walker drills it straight down the middle, having singlehandedly picked up this game with his bare hands and made it his own.
What is perhaps most amusing about all of this, even more than seeing a Lewes defence in disarray, is that Walker was pretty much completely overshadowed in the space of a second. Step into the spotlight: Dominic Johnson-Fisher. There’d been a few mutterings about his whereabouts in recent weeks after a sparkling start to life at Whitehawk. He’d been nursing an injury for some time, but this confirmed his return. And with complete, utter and devastating aplomb.
As the wind whipped in off the Channel, Johnson Fisher has the ball on the left byline. Dancing, toying with his full-back, he rips inside to find a pocket of space 25 yards from goal. Then, the finish. Has one ever seen a ball barrelled that brutally? The sweetest of sweet spots, Nathan Harvey is a mere bystander to the cause as it disappears into the red and white netting. A sea of red is alive and well behind. Lewes are well and truly beat.
What to say of the 45 minutes that followed? Walker perhaps should have collected his second hat-trick of the season with a goalmouth scramble soon after the restart, but what pleased Saunders the most was the way his side went about managing the game. Immaculate fettle, the Rooks were checkmated. Everywhere they turned a red wall was there to suppress the threat. It’s been a common theme at The Enclosed Ground. The fortress that only grows stronger.
For large swathes of every single 90-minute battle on home turf, Whitehawk have made their opponents look deceivingly average. Lewes are an inconsistent side with genuine quality, but they don’t seem to know how to use it. This can change by the time these sides next meet in little over a month at the same location, where points will be on the table.
But for now it’s time to revel in a fine cup victory – the furthest Whitehawk have ever gone in this competition, and look forward to Monday’s draw. We’re here again: the end of a winning report, and how much joy it brings one that has been well and truly converted by this alluring, beautiful club.