By Daniel Shumake
Love was undeniably in the air on Valentine’s Night as the Hawks welcomed Lancing to the slightly warmer Enclosed Ground. Love for the game that is, for anyone who took their loved one to dinner or a movie missed out on the ultimate treat.
There were some bitter tastes to overcome before this match, however. By all measures, Saturday’s away result of 1-1 to Faversham Town was disappointing. The Hawks clearly did not dwell on the draw, though. All the Ultras could tell from the warmup that the lads were stepping up for a holiday tango.
And cheers to those Ultras who had their priorities in check. While the numbers might have been slightly affected by the Hallmark holiday, the mighty voice and trademark humour was there in full force, cheering on what was a very bright Whitehawk start indeed.
The lads showed great energy to press and win the ball back in good areas. Tenacity was contagious. That being said, the first moment of moderate distress came in the sixth minute from former Hawk, Mo Juwara, who would go on to have a good game. It was the age-old dilemma of “cross or shot?” The ambiguous ball from Juwara on the left wing bonked atop Sam Freeman’s crossbar and safely out of play.
Just two minutes later, the set-piece sensation Charlie Harris nearly scored yet again from a corner, forcing a punch from debutant goalkeeper Macauley Scott. A Joel Daly long-ranged effort was then pushed away. Keys stayed out and jingling, though nothing materialised from the resulting corner. Outswinging corners are hard you know.
The Hawks’ second attempt on the half volley would certainly be a sign of good things to come. After 15 minutes of good hold-up play and feisty pressing, Rob O’Toole was rewarded with an absolute peach of a hit. He put his laces through one and lashed it past Scott for the opener. Bedlam from the Sea End and good feelings started to rumble with the beat of the Ultras’ drum.
The next period of play saw the Hawks dominate every aspect of the game. When they played more directly, the long balls from the centre halves gave their backline issues. When the lads built up from the back, they were able to stretch the pitch and use clever flicks to release men forward. An energy swelled around the ground. Fans drank both their hot and cold drinks with gracious grins.
That energy nearly piqued with an audacious overhead kick from Will Miles, who forced a parry from Scott in the 37th minute. The rebound fell to Alfie Rogers, who could only tease the Ultras on a night where football was put before fancy. No shot on goal and no relief for the fans, and yet we cheered on for the things to come.
The half ended with a pink, red, and white optimism. The Hawks had a well-deserved lead, and it was clear that there were more goals in this game. Perhaps the flirting and persistence would yield some results once the lads attacked downhill towards their deafening Din.
The pints were flowing, everyone was cozy, and Tottenham were losing in the Champions League. Everything just felt right into place. It was time for the great migration to the harmonious Din halls.
Throughout the bright start to the second half, there were impressive performances both on the pitch and in the stands. Certain Ultras gave opera-like solos to the crowd of delighted and cheering supporters. Not only were the impromptu lyrics rock-solid, but some of the voices boomed off the sheet metal and Din roof so beautifully that single tears fell from numerous eyes. Sights and sounds to behold.
More happy tears were to be had, because in the 66th minute a long throw-in forced some welcome confusion in the Lancing box. It was quasi-cleared to the edge of the box, and fear set in like a virus once the Lancers saw #8 step up with eyes on the ball.
Charlie Harris (who came from Crystal Palace) blasted an absolute missile into the top right corner. Scott could only watch as the ball curved away from him and left his net singeing. Fans everywhere were hugging and jumping. Such a shot triggered my fight-or-flight response, and for the next moments I had complete lizard brain. I hope others shared my thoughtlessness.
As if to say, “Anything you can do, I can do just as well,” Stefan Wright rubbed his hands together at a ball eerily similar to Harris’ just twelve minutes prior. Same technique but just a couple yards further, Wright cut across it and bazooka’d the ball into the same crispy spot Harris had just hit. Whomever we get our nets from should be applauded. Usually, nets don’t take that kind of a beating. In all seriousness, it was a moment of awe-inspiring joy for the fans, but relief for Wright, who shushed all opposers.
Whitehawk saw out the match professionally for the next few moments. They made their subs and looked strong in defending Lancing’s desperation for consolation. It seemed the game would end comfortably 3-0 until substitute Kris Oti pressed his opposite centre half at the touchline.
Without fouling, Oti managed to steal the ball from his defender, get past him, and then whip in a drop-dead gorgeous cross with his left foot to the back post. Luke Robinson made a great run and with a diving header wrapped the game up with a cute ribbon on a heart-shaped box. 4-0. Cheers to you, Luke Robinson. I’m sure by now you know how much we all love you.
Truly, it was an evening of enthusiasm. The fans were rewarded for their dedication with 90 minutes full of passion, composure, and four simply terrific goals. What a way to celebrate the things you love on a holiday meant to be shared with the people you love. I can only be grateful on this victory Wednesday.