The significance of Mark Nwokeji’s second-half penalty miss was not lost on Hawks boss Shaun Gale as he watched his side suffer a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Welling United last night.
After pulling themselves back to level terms on the stroke of half-time when Craig Braham-Barrett cancelled out Louis Cumber’s 43th-minute opener, the Hawks were handed the opportunity to take control of their Blue Square South clash at Westleigh Park.
However, summer signing Nwokeji failed to take most of the opportunity presented to him in the second half and, instead, blasted his spot-kick well over John Whitehouse’s bar to hand the momentum to Welling.
And the visitors took little time to seize their chance of an away win when Andy Pugh snatched the winner seven minutes from time – leaving Gale a dejected figure at the final whistle.
‘It is disappointing,’ said Gale.
‘Welling were a difficult side to play against but we didn’t help ourselves at times with poor choices.
‘In the second half we were sloppy and they had two big lads at the back, – and we played into their hands.
‘The penalty miss was a big turning point. It knocked the stuffing out of us and we went flat.
‘After playing so well on Saturday, last night we didn’t do enough to win a football match.
‘We got into some good areas, but when you get opportunities you need to take them, and we didn’t.’
The Hawks suffered a massive blow just before kick-off when Saturday’s matchwinner Lee Peacock failed a fitness test on his knee.
Nwokeji was drafted in, with latest arrival Warren McBean taking his place on the substitutes’ bench.
The Hawks’ first opportunity came when Wes Fogden was fouled on the edge of the Welling penalty area, but Pearce could only hammer his effort into the defensive wall.
During these early stages, the Hawks were showing signs of missing target-man Peacock.
But skipper Chris Holland gave them the impetuous with a good forward ball that allowed Braham-Barrett to cross to the far post, yet Fogden’s effort was poor.
Keeper Nathan Ashmore came to the home side’s rescue on 22 minutes when he clawed away a Louis Cumbers shot.
Then, within the space of a minute, both sides came close to breaking the deadlock.
Braham-Barrett sent a low shot narrowly past the far post, while at the other end, Ben Martin narrowly failed to make contact six yards out after a corner.
It was the visitors, however, who made the breakthrough on 43 minutes from the penalty spot.
Cumbers went clear on the right edge of the area, only to be flattened by Ashmore.
The keeper was booked, and though he beat out Lee Clarke’s spot-kick, the forward netted the rebound.
The Hawks’ response was immediate, though, and within a minute they were level.
Braham-Barrett’s low cross-shot was grabbed by keeper Whitehouse, but the referee’s assistant indicated that the ball had already crossed the line and awarded a goal.
In a rousing start to the second half, Cumbers narrowly failed to knock the ball past Ashmore after going clear.
And almost immediately the Hawks wasted a glorious opportunity to take the lead.
Braham-Barrett burst to the by-line before being bundled over inside the area to earn the Hawks a penalty.
Debut-making Nwokeji stepped up to take the spot-kick but ballooned his effort hopelessly over the top – much to the visitors’ relief.
As the half progressed, Welling looked stronger and Andy Pugh went close with a shot at the near post.
Braham-Barrett’s pace continued to be the main outlet for the Hawks, but eight minutes from time the visitors snatched a winner.
Pugh’s curling free-kick from the left avoided everybody and ended up in the bottom corner of the Hawks’ net.
Cumbers narrowly failed to extend the visitors’ lead at the far post.
The Hawks’ misery was complete a minute from time when Steven Ramsey was sent off for a second bookable offence.