Hawks aiming to strike a blow to play-off rivals

Ben Wright. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Ben Wright. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Bradley Tarbuck has picked up an injury. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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The Hawks are planning to strike some serious blows to fellow play-off hopefuls – starting with Ebbsfleet United at Westleigh Park tomorrow (3pm).

Lee Bradbury’s side are all set for a run of three key matches against Vanarama Conference South promotion rivals.

After facing Ebbsfleet they go to Concord Rangers on Tuesday and head for Chelmsford City the following weekend.

Manager Bradbury is backing his side to deal with the tough schedule to keep their play-off mission on track.

Tomorrow’s match will be crucial for both teams with the Hawks heading into the contest in fourth place – seven points ahead of their Kent visitors.

Ebbsfleet have a game in hand but if the gap is extended to 10 points it will make it very difficult for them to close.

Bradbury believes the visitors will arrive at Westleigh Park knowing their hopes of promotion could well hinge on getting a victory.

Ebbsfleet are in good form as well so will be in confident mood.

The Hawks boss said: ‘Our opponents will look on this as a must-win game if they are going to catch us.

‘This is a big game for both teams.There is no doubt they will come and have a real go at it.

‘We have to be prepared for that. If we win it will be like a six-pointer.

‘It won’t be easy, though, because they have only lost once in their past seven games. They have got some momentum going.

‘They possess some quality players and we will need to be at our best.’

The Hawks got back to winning ways with a 3-1 home win over Wealdstone which proved comfortable in the end.

For the first 50 minutes, though, the Hawks struggled to impose themselves.

It took two quick-fire goals from Scott Donnelly to give them the confidence to go on and take charge of the contest.

Bradbury is looking for a 90-minute performance from his team tomorrow – he knows they will need to be on top form from the start.

‘We weren’t great in our last game and we need to pick things up over 90 minutes,’ said Bradbury.

‘Though we have not been good at home recently we still boast the second best home record in the league.

‘Now it is about maintaining a consistent level of performance from start to finish.

‘We are best on the front foot, closing the opposition down and putting them under pressure.

‘If we do that we have the quality to go on and win games.’

The home side are boosted by the return of attacking-midfielder Nic Ciardini.

He’s now completed his eight-match suspension.

Striker Ben Wright is also fit again. If he can quickly find his scoring touch, along with the likes of Bradley Bubb, JJ Hooper and Ben Swallow, it will be a big lift for the Hawks.

Against Ebbsfleet will be the perfect time for that to happen.

‘Our next three games give us the chance to make it difficult for our closest rivals,’ added Bradbury.

‘Our aim is to try to win all of them to put us in the strongest position possible.’

HAWKS: Young, Strugnell, Dutton, Harris, Cummings, Stock, Donnelly, Swallow, Wright, Bubb, Huggins, Ciardini, Hooper, Mullings, Awford, Woodford, Ryan, Blanchett.