Hawks facing difficult play-off test after losing to Whitehawk

Lee Bradbury.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (150487-1)
Lee Bradbury. Picture: Paul Jacobs (150487-1)
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Lee Bradbury faces the job of picking his Hawks up off the floor as they head into a two-legged Vanarama Conference South play-off semi-final against Boreham Wood.

The Hawks’ confidence was badly bruised by their 2-1 home defeat at the hands of fellow play-off rivals Whitehawk at Westleigh Park.

Bradbury’s team began the final day with high hopes of finishing second.

But the Sussex side destroyed those ambitions with a fine display.

The Hawks were second best for most of the contest.

And despite leading at half-time Bradbury’s team could have few complaints about the final result.

It means if the Hawks are to win promotion they have to do it the hard way.

They will be taking on the runners-up and will have to cope with playing the second leg away from home.

If they come through that test then the final will also be on their opponents’ ground.

It was certainly a big blow to their hopes of securing promotion to the Vanarama Conference.

Hawks boss Bradbury admitted his side were knocked out of their stride with the way Whitehawk started the match.

He felt the opposition took control of the game during the early period and his team were unable to live with them.

‘It was hugely disappointing and we have to be better,’ said Bradbury.

‘Whitehawk started like a train and we could have been buried by half-time.

‘We let our standards slip and got punished for it.

‘In the first half they were a lot sharper, brighter, and quicker to the ball.

‘They possessed that little more energy and pace going forward in the opening 45 minutes.

‘It was the worst we have started for a long time and we can’t keep giving opposition opportunities.’

Despite being under the cosh for the majority of the first half it was the Hawks who took a 25th-minute lead totally against the run of play.

Good work from Josh Huggins and Bradley Bubb on the right ended with JJ Hooper turning in a low cross from inside the six-yard box.

The home side improved at the start of the second half upping their work-rate.

Whitehawk were given far less time on the ball in midfield and the Hawks were more of an attacking force.

It was the visitors, however, who took charge again in the final quarter.

They upped the pace and netted two goals in the final 13 minutes to seal victory and leave the Hawks not in the position they wanted to be.

‘In the second half we were far more aggressive on the ball and got on the front foot,’ said Bradbury.

‘We did a bit better but it is a game that was frustrating for us.’

Bradbury will now ensure his men are focused for the play-off mission.

He added: ‘It is important we concentrate now on the two games against Boreham Wood and not let this result dictate to us.

‘On Wednesday we have to turn up ready to play from the first whistle and not give the opposition four or five chances before we get going.

‘We have beaten them twice in the league so that is a good omen.

‘The good thing is, it will be on two decent pitches with two teams who want to play the right way.

‘It should be an excellent contest.’

Hawks: Young, Huggins, Blanchett, Awford, Dutton, Strugnell, Carmichael, Donnelly, Wright (Mullings 59), Hooper (Ciardini 65), Bubb (Swallow 60). Subs not used: Monteiro, Medway.

Att: 1,127