Isthmian League


Well, that was fun.

It’s never truly known how much you miss something until it’s taken away from you. Twenty-two days away from home, from life; it’s easy to overlook the TerraPura’s charm and purpose. And within the rustic walls of this cozy, distinct non-league amphitheater it unearthed a forgotten noise buried deep at the slope’s foot. A distinct rumble circling above east Brighton can mean only one blissful thing: Whitehawk are winners.

Sure, the Hawks have triumphed twice on home soil this season but this one was unique. Prior to this crisp Autumn afternoon not once had they found the target on more than one single occasion, not once had they scored beyond the 50th minute. All change, please. Facing a slick opponent, VCD by name: rampant in attack; left impotent by brute force and intellect. An irradiant diamond shining gorgeously bright above Javaun Splatt, it was he who hypostatised his fans’ own fantasies.

Anyhow, this tale has an opening. A minute silence to remember those who sacrificed all for ourselves impeccably observed from left to right. This fresh fight was almost underway. For the one celebrating his birthday in the dugout, manager Ross Standen opted for the single change in personnel from last Saturday’s success at Phoenix Sports: Michael Dome-Bemwin in for Lewis Unwin. 

A few shillings placed into the meter so the lights shine through the murky greyness, a blow of the whistle signifies the commencement. There was a strong early intensity implemented by both sides – harrying their opposing defences almost. An early caveat for the visiting VCD backline: Splatt’s bobbling touch finds him in an inch of space, over the upright the attempted lob soared.

High press, high intensity football. Possession thrown away like litter it required some cool heads to formulate an attack. Patiently ‘The Vickers’ grew, sliding the ball into Youssef Bamba’s slippery feet for him to skip past Leon Redwood. Evidently a left-sided player by trade, his right-footed spank at goal crashed into the vacuous stand behind.

Those clad in red were starting to emerge from their shells. A bit more vigour, a bit more zeal was needed to kick down the opposition’s blue wall. But where there is Splatt there is hope. Divine to the eye, Peter Gregory floated a precise pass onto the chest of Splatt. The control was everything, shifting the ball away from Ashley Probets before swivelling and volleying beyond the rooted Sam Mott. Executed with surgical precision, the TerraPura erupted in ecstasy.

Barely time to catch those missed breaths, Charlie Lambert hoped to replicate his colleague’s heroics with individual brilliance: The ball sprayed out to the right-flank for the on-loan wide-man, Lambert drowned out the alternatives by cutting inside, beating one, beating two, beating three and then a fourth before the goal presented itself to him. Prime Messi it appeared; Kiki Oshilaja stuck a hefty foot in to suppress the imminent threat.

A zippy pace to proceedings provided an element of uncertainty. Yes, Whitehawk were good for their lead but it was soon wiped out, Bamba the one wheeling away with composed delight. But it was the intrinsic, artful play of Chris Edwards who built this, twisting and turning in the Hawks defence to curl the ball into the six-yard box for Jeff Duah-Kessie. Somehow he misses.

The ball still in play, it soon fell to the feet of Bamba. A couple of step-overs, a jink to the left and a daisy-cutter drive. Brushing Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke’s fingernails and the post before settling in the netting. Minutes pass before Ayman El-Mogharbel heads centimetres over. Ride the VCD storm. There’s the half time whistle. Honours even. Exhale.

Head down the tunnel for a chat, head into the clubhouse for a beverage. A switch of ends for the band of supporters; they gather in the Sea End with the hopes of some fruitful Saturday joy. Out they stride from the darkness, finding themselves on the green surface. Light fades upon the restart, harnessed by a brightening VCD who set the early precedent. Drowning in overloads it’s Duah-Kessie with a further look-in. Gambolling through his shot has a touch of scuff about it. Stroomberg-Clarke parries as the ball is recycled as far as Bamba, but his erratic smash blazed well-wide.

The Hawks yearned for a spark. A catharsis from near crisis. They had an outlet all along. Soon, finally, the ball would find its way to the red shape of Lambert. Fearless in his zone, a chagrin in the VCD backline. A neat nutmeg took him around one in time for a fizzer of a thing across the face. Omarr Lawson lurking, waiting. The faintest of touches is all it needed but Lawson got a whole lot of it from the closest of range to send it impressively high over the crossbar.

And so the contest opened up. Adam El-Abd bravely blocking Anthony Adesite’s volley at one end, the linesman’s flag preventing Splatt with an open goal at the other. Something had to give. Friction brewing steadily; that slip in the fault line sending shockwaves through east Brighton. Yes, there it was: the Hawks snatched the lead.

James Fraser sits in a kingdom of his own – no one near, no one closing. To the right of the box he swings his boot at the ball, delivering a snaking beauty of a cross to the arriving Lawson. He connects but so too does Mott, somehow preventing it from crossing the line. But who’s there to gobble it up? Splatt. Calm, cool, billow. Those November stars high in the sky align. Whitehawk are in-front, the TerraPura is alive.

Such noise. Such elation. Splatt had sent his Hawks into raptures, delirious from the excitement. But ten minutes remained still. Acting with impunity they rode the waves of their visitors from south east London. Mo Kamara and El-Abd imperious as they were impenetrable. The ball stayed away, frightened of its own fate. Henry Muggeridge on for the final minutes, he would be there to see things out.

The final whistle echoed around the ground with a triumphant, regal roar. It is on this charming setting where the points shall remain forever engrained within each blade of grass. Oh, how we’ve missed the comforts of home.

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