“Delighted for the lads; thought they worked really, really hard for each other…there was a period in the first half, especially second half, where we probably could’ve had a couple more…we looked a threat.”
Welcome to December. A jolly Ross Standen stands on the aisle behind the goal — stiff from an hour and a half of gesticulating in the chilly breeze — he unveils his delight at what has recently occurred in front of his two eyes. It’s often noted how one can predict the eventual winners of a football match based on the opening ten minutes of play, and by that mark the Hawks were already a goal to the good as Alex Malins steered the Mitre ball home with his head at the far-post.
That sense of Autumnal freshness was felt through the multiple layers, but on the artificial blades of grass a similar sensation was received (and no, it’s not to do with the weather). For this Whitehawk team strolled out with vigour; a zesty substance in their veins that electrified them throughout, as if a petrol tanker’s hose was permanently attached to a moving car. Buzz, buzz, buzz…stung were Sevenoaks not once, nor twice, but thrice. Debut goals and 16 year olds, successful was this Saturday afternoon that the three points returned home to the snugness of Whitehawk.
And so they emerged from their respective changing rooms and out into the Arctic. Sparse yet green were the surroundings, most of the leaves having already spiralled softly below to the floor. Standen shuffles his cards; four changes to that side defeated by Herne Bay in midweek. Enter Ollie Munt, Peter Gregory, Billie Clark and the debutant himself, Malins. Partnering Adam El-Abd for the duration, Mohammed Kamara was pushed out to full-back. Youth exhaling below the polycarbonate roof of the dugout in the form of Jack Duckett, Joshua Mundy and Toby Reeder; the latter would have his moment beneath the floodlights.
But before all of that, it was the sound of Michael Hayden’s whistle that would provide the green light, the sound of the pistol. On your marks, get set, goal. In a blurry moment Whitehawk had dug through the shallow mud to find an opener, the settler. Insipid were the Oaks in their own box, Malins strolled into a zone of space to head ruthlessly into Matthew Blendell’s unguarded goal. Sublime was the cross, questionable was the defending with the Hawks smelling blood. A wild hammerhead shakes its way through Sevenoaks’ midfield; Munt metronomic with the ball glued to his shoes…a snaking cross of his is clawed away by Blendell; the Hawks were rampant.
Clark occupying the left channel, his pace and tenacity flung him in to the correct areas, the dangerous districts of the football field, but things weren’t quite coming off for him, yet. At the other end the ball reached unexplored territory with Jonathan Pilbeam crashing it over the crossbar from a yard outside the box. No threat to Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke, it would not alter the flow of the contest. Constantly would the hosts be pegged back inside their own half, defending crosses as Javaun Splatt connected the attack soundlessly but effectively. Munt swinging in another beauty of a delivery, Blendell retreating, flailing as he claws it away for another corner. Half time in north-west Kent; Sussex’s contenders had burst into life with delicious flavour.
Mixed into the saucepan were these spices. Stirred to precision, it portrayed Whitehawk in their finest light. Oddly hypnotic, delicately stitched was the second goal. Non-league football in its most distilled form, Munt receives a millimetre-perfect switched pass and lightly taps the ball first time into the path of Gregory. Movement magnificent, it carved open to Sevenoaks defence with ease as the forward advanced towards Blendell’s posts before lifting the ball artistically over the arms and into the netting for his first for the club. Elegant was the move it proved the catalyst for a smooth half to follow, encapsulating a faultless act in front of the scattered eyeballs.
It was all the Hawks required. That fabled second goal, the one that squeezes the reassured liquid into the minds. Comfortable were the minutes that followed as the ball remained attached to a red shape. Spinning and whizzing in tandem, up and down they surged with a third in sight. Injuries halt the fluidity of the half, the Oaks worse off in that respect. Tegan Freeman sprints on for the remaining ten minutes as the final phase is hurriedly upon us. Vivid was the clear sky as the golden sun sets leaves behind a sea of colour with the darkness to the West quickly catching up with it.
The perfect setting, then, for Clark to latch onto a crisp pass from Omarr Lawson and slip it beneath the lower limbs of Blendell. Space in the Sevenoaks defence exploited by Clark, playing off the shoulder of those clad in blue and black stripes. Inter Milan-esque — though distant were they from Bergomi and Zanetti — it opened the gleaming door for Clark to spring into action. A touch or two to set himself before confidently caressing the ball into the goal. Cue the wheeling away, the smiles and the celebrations. Clark beside himself, that’s two in two for the fledgling winger.
The final act: Reeder comes on in place of Clark. 16 year old replaces 17 year old. The Hawks brimming with young talent, it presented the second debut of the afternoon. Few too little minutes to make an impact, this one was over soon after his introduction onto the competitive stage. But it mattered not. Whitehawk triumphant for the first time in 22 days, a four game losing streak majestically snapped in two with three points harvested on the grounds of Sevenoaks. Slick were Standen’s men, moving in ceremonious harmony with one another. Cray Valley Paper Mills next on the festive agenda, more of this will be necessary to overthrow those who reign atop of our league.