Ciardini puts Hawks on the verge

Nic Ciardini, number seven, takes the plaudits after netting the derby winner. Picture: Dave Haines
Nic Ciardini, number seven, takes the plaudits after netting the derby winner. Picture: Dave Haines
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The Hawks took a huge step towards the Skrill South play-offs by beating newly-crowned champions Eastleigh 1-0 at Westleigh Park.

With closest rivals Dover Athletic dropping two points in their 1-1 draw against Whitehawk, Nic Ciardini’s goal put the Hawks firmly in the driving seat for fifth place.

Lee Bradbury’s side are now two points ahead of the Kent side with a game in hand.

If the Hawks can win that game – against Maidenhead United at Westleigh Park tomorrow night – then they cannot be caught and their play-off place is guaranteed.

‘We are within touching distance and would like to get the job done as soon as possible,’ said Hawks manager Bradbury.

‘It won’t be easy because Maidenhead are scrapping for their lives to stay up.

‘These are the type of games we want to be playing in because it means something.

‘We have given ourselves a fantastic chance but there is still a lot of hard work to do.

‘I am proud of the way the players have kept pushing each other – they remain fit and hungry to do well.

‘It would be nice to go into our final game not having to worry about getting into the play-offs.’

The Hawks produced a workmanlike performance to see off Eastleigh courtesy of an early Ciardini free-kick.

Under the circumstances it was always going to be a nervy and tense afternoon but the home side coped with it well enough.

The goal arrived in the 11th minute after Sahr Kabba had been brought down on the edge of the Eastleigh area.

The Spitfires’ debut-making goalkeeper Lewis Noice made the mistake of leaving Ciardini far too much of his goal to aim at.

And the former Farnborough man was not going to miss an opportunity like that and curled his free-kick high into the net.

Bradbury said: ‘We got the job done well against a good side. After we scored I thought we got a little bit nervous but it was always going to be a tough afternoon.

‘We struggled to play the football that we can play at times.

‘If we had been too expansive the danger was that Eastleigh might catch us on the counter with their pace.

‘We sat in there for a bit and let them have possession at times in areas where we felt they couldn’t hurt us.’

The hosts had one big let-off just after the half hour when a deep cross evaded keeper Benji Buchel.

The ball bounced off the chest of Ben Strevens and onto the post before being cleared.

That was as close as either team came to scoring for the rest of the game.

‘This is our 20th clean sheet in the league this season which is a remarkable achievement,’ said Bradbury.

‘I believe the record in this league is 21. If we can achieve that against Maidenhead and score a goal then we will be in the play-offs.’

Hawks: Buchel, Strugnell, Blanchett, Ryan, Woodford, Harris, Ciardini (Przespolewski, 75mins), Atangana, Bassele (Nanetti, 65mins), Kabba (Jones, 65mins), Donnelly. Att: 932