THE HAWKS host league-leaders Braintree Town tonight (7.45pm) needing a win to rekindle their distant play-off hopes.
Shaun Gale’s men came off second best in a bruising encounter with second-placed Ebbsfleet United on Saturday and are braced for an equally-tough fight tonight.
A 2-1 loss left them 15 points adrift of fifth-placed Welling but with four games in hand.
An early Wes Fogden goal gave the Hawks a perfect start at Stonebridge Road before two Calum Willock strikes condemned the visitors to defeat.
Manager Gale was pleased with the way his players stood up for themselves but questioned the home side’s approach.
He said: ‘We knew we would have to come here and scrap and I can’t fault the boys for their effort, they fought for their lives.
‘If that’s the way people want to play the game then fair enough – some might regard it as being professional.
‘It was like Farnborough re-visited.
‘They had players throwing themselves to the floor, trying to get our players sent off.
‘From the first minute they were at Mustafa Tiryaki, slapping him around the head and treading on him.
‘We all know he can be a bit hot-headed but he deserved some protection from the officials, which he didn’t get.
‘Their players were throwing themselves to the ground and nothing was done about it.
‘They had some big, strong players and being direct suited them.’
The Hawks made a good start, taking a sixth-minute lead.
Steve Ramsey received the ball on the right and, when his deep cross found Fogden unmarked at the far post, the diminutive forward looped a header back over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Ebbsfleet responded with mounting pressure, which the Hawks resisted until they conceded a simple 26th-minute equaliser.
‘We couldn’t have wished for a better start but we let them back into it by conceding a poor goal,’ said Gale.
‘We knew they would come back at us and it would be difficult but we allowed ourselves to be undone by a simple ball over the top.
‘It was a straight ball again and we haven’t dealt with it – the centre-half and goalkeeper can do better for me.’
The fractious nature of the contest continued after the break and it was the hosts who forged in front on 61 minutes with a well-taken goal.
Jacob Erskine skipped his way into the area from the right and pulled the ball back for Willock to neatly tuck a low first time-effort into the far corner of the net.
The Hawks wasted two great chances to get back on level terms, notably when Sammy Igoe headed wide of a gaping goal from six yards and substitute Giuseppe Sole sent a lob on to the roof of the net.
Ricky Shakes also missed an open-goal from three yards for the home side.
‘We have missed two gilt-edged chances and the least we deserved was a point,’ added Gale.
‘It was disappointing because the defeat ends our good run, and in the two games they have beaten us in, I don’t think they were any better than us.
‘It is important that we pick ourselves up again against the league leaders because we have to get three points.
‘We can dig in and bounce back.’
Hawks: Ashmore 6; Newton 7, Tyrrell 6 (Sole 66mins – 6), Selley 6 (Scott 90mins), Pearce 6, Simpemba 7, Fogden 7, Hinshelwood 6, Igoe 7, Tiryaki 7, Ramsey 7