Battle of Hawks is crucial to play-off hopes

Ryan Woodford has impressed on his return to play-off chasing Hawks' starting line-up   Picture: Dave Haines

Ryan Woodford has impressed on his return to play-off chasing Hawks' starting line-up Picture: Dave Haines

Aaron Dawson. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Gosport aim to give loyal fans something to cheer at home

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THE HAWKS are aiming to turn up the heat in their Skrill South play-off push with a second win of the season over Whitehawk at Westleigh Park tonight (7.45pm).

Lee Bradbury’s side beat the Sussex visitors 3-1 in an FA Trophy replay earlier in the season and a repeat will add fuel to the Hawks fire in their play-off bid.

Two consecutive wins have seen the Hawks claw themselves to within four points of the play-off places, with four games in hand on fifth-placed Dover.

They have got themselves into a good position despite having to play catch-up in a punishing schedule of games.

Tonight’s game will be the Hawks’ 12th this month but the players have shown they still have the fire in their belly for the challenge.

‘This is another big three points,’ said Bradbury.

‘I am delighted with the way the players are coping with a difficult situation and they continue to show great energy.

‘All the time we keep winning it helps us not notice how tiring it is.

‘The players are buying into our rotation system and so far it is working well for us.

‘There is a determination in our squad to achieve something this season.

‘If we can keep winning our home games and pick up points on the road then we won’t be too far away.’

The Hawks’ success has been built on solid defensive performances, which have seen them keep 15 clean sheets in 30 games.

Goalkeeper Benji Buchel, who has come in on loan from AFC Bournemouth for the injured Scott Bevan, has done well.

Bradbury has also been impressed by the way his team are defending from front to back with a lot of energy.

At the back Ryan Woodford has grabbed his opportunity with both hands on his return to the starting line-up, hardly missing a thing in the air and on the ground.

Bradbury is looking for another good performance from his side, although, he expects Whitehawk to be awkward opponents.

The Sussex side, like the Hawks, have already won twice this week – their latest a 2-1 win at Bishop’s Stortford on Tuesday night.

New manager Steve King and his team are battling against relegation and that will serve to make them dangerous opponents.

‘It is often more difficult against teams with something to play for at the bottom,’ said Bradbury.

‘But we must look to pick up all three points to keep the pressure on the teams above us.

‘By doing that they are the ones who have to keep looking over their shoulder.’

The home side are without midfield dynamo Perry Ryan who starts a two-game suspension but defender Ed Harris could reappear in the squad after his leg injury.

Powerful striker Dennis Oli could return to the starting line-up after coming on as a second-half substitute against Bath City.

HAWKS: Buchel, Bevan, Blanchett, Newton, Woodford, Monteiro, Strugnell, Cummings, Atangana, Donnelly, Ciardini, Ramsey, Kabba, Hutchinson, Oli, Nanetti, Jones, Przespolewski, Paterson, Bassele

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