Hawks boss Lee Bradbury has called on his players to show greater ‘consistency’ as they bid to record a rare Blue Square Bet South double over Basingstoke Town tomorrow (3pm).
Bradbury kicked off his time in charge of the Westleigh Park side with a 2-1 win over the Dragons at the Camrose Ground three months ago.
He desperately wants to repeat that feat and mount a late surge towards the play-offs but knows his troops need to perform week-in, week-out if they are to be considered serious challengers for a top-five spot.
The Hawks returned from their enforced three-week weather break with a dogged goalless draw at Dorchester last weekend.
That left them 17th in the league table and desperate for results to start going their way – a position Bradbury believes fails to show his side’s true potential.
‘We have come a fair way and I feel we have played far better than our league position suggests,’ said Bradbury.
‘At times we have been a little bit inconsistent.
‘The key to any top sides’ success is consistency week-in, week-out.
‘Slowly we are getting better at this but we should be higher up the league given how we have played.
‘It is important that we get back to winning ways and this game is a good opportunity to do so.’
Basingstoke, however, will be keen to make amends for their first home reverse of the season back on October 13 and will present the hosts with a physical challenge.
The Dragons have two big central defenders and possess the aerial threat of Tim Sills up front.
They will set out to chuck the ball into the Hawks penalty area at every opportunity and try to put their hosts on the back foot.
Bradbury, though, is very meticulous in his preparations and will look to counteract the visitors’ threat.
‘We have to stick to our principles, try to play in the right areas and create chances,’ he said.
‘At the moment we are looking at ways of isolating certain players on the pitch and dictating the game to them a little bit.’
The Hawks have shown an increasing resilience against the more physical sides in the division – and a lot of that has been down to the central-defensive partnership of Ed Harris and Bournemouth loanee Dan Strugnell.
Cherries defender Strugnell is due to return to his parent club next week but Bradbury is working on trying to get an extension to his temporary stay.
Young Pompey loanee Alex Grant also gives the Hawks a greater physical presence in the left-back position.
With Ryan Woodford fit again after his ankle injury, Bradbury has plenty of defensive options at his disposal.
A win will give the Hawks a big confidence boost ahead of a difficult few weeks ahead.
Bradbury’s side play five of their next six league games away from home and four of these are against top-five sides.
The other away game is a local derby at Eastleigh and the home game against league leaders Salisbury.
It doesn’t get any tougher than that.
Hawks: Masters, Newton, Harris, Strugnell, Grant, Arthur, Ryan, Hutchinson, Kewley-Graham, Nanetti, Palmer, Kabba, Woodford, Ramsey, Jones, Hinshelwood, Bailey.
n The Hawks’ Hampshire Senior Cup tie with Sholing has been rearranged for Tuesday, February 5.
The fixture, which has fallen foul of the weather three times, had been rescheduled for next Wednesday.
But the game has now been shifted once again and will be played 24 hours earlier at the Silverlake Arena.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm.