Hawks ready to take to the air at Spitfires

Chris Holland has been told to become more of a threat at set pieces Picture: Dave Haines
Chris Holland has been told to become more of a threat at set pieces Picture: Dave Haines
Hawks boss Lee Bradbury. Picture: Habibur Rahman (170972-31)

Bradbury hails his steely Hawks

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It will be a case of who dares wins at the Silverlake Stadium as Eastleigh and the Hawks go head to head in Blue Square Bet South derby action tonight (7.45pm).

The Spitfires accept their pitch is not in the greatest condition and certainly not conducive to a good passing game.

As a result, both teams may be forced to take a more direct route and rely on an aerial threat at set-pieces.

For the Hawks, that will mean a crucial role for central defender Chris Holland, who plays against his previous employers.

Holland used his ability in the air to score from a corner in the 2-2 draw against Hampton & Richmond Borough in the Hawks’ last game on January 28.

And manager Shaun Gale is looking for far more goals from the defender.

‘I have asked Chris Holland to be more dominant in the opposition area from corners and free-kicks,’ said Gale.

‘He definitely gives us a good presence in the air but often it hasn’t ended in goals.

‘We know that it is going to be tough and Eastleigh will present us with a big, physical test.

‘Sutton recently described the playing surface at Eastleigh as “shocking” so we expect it to be difficult.

‘It is likely to be muck and bullets and will all depend on who can adapt to the conditions best.’

It’s certain to be a battle tonight between two teams who have become fierce rivals ever since Ian Baird walked out on the Hawks to become Eastleigh’s manager in 2007.

Since then, a host of former Westleigh Park players have also made the move across the M27, with the Spitfires currently boasting former Hawks Tom Jordan, Shaun Wilkinson, Gary Elphick and Jamie Slabber.

Gale, who was Baird’s assistant when the former Pompey striker was with the Hawks, is likely to stick with the formula that has served his team well in their past few away games.

In the win at Tonbridge Angels before Christmas, the Hawks packed the midfield, playing with a single striker up front.

The same tactics almost brought them another win at Thurrock.

That match in Essex ended goalless but the Hawks had late chances to snatch a win.

Scott Jones has done some sterling work in the lone striker role but, at Eastleigh, Gale may decide to go with the more potent goal threat from Ollie Palmer.

Gale has dispensed with the flair presence of Sammy Igoe, who has been injured, and Craig Braham-Barrett, preferring instead to opt for the greater midfield aggression of Perry Ryan, Chris Arthur, Craig Hinshelwood and Steve Ramsey.

The Hawks expect to find themselves in the trenches at Eastleigh and Gale is expected to stick with the more solid formation.

‘This is the start of a difficult run of games against top sides,’ said Gale.

‘If we keep playing to the level we did against Hampton & Richmond, then we will be okay.

‘Eastleigh come into the game off the back of a cracking 4-0 win over Sutton so they will be in a confident mood.

‘But we have lost only twice in 13 games so we will be going there looking to win.

‘To do that we will have to defend well and not make any mistakes.’

Hawks: Beazely, Newton, Holland, Pearce, McDonald, Arthur, Ramsey, Ryan, Hinshelwood, Palmer, Jones, Braham-Barrett, Woodford, Thompson, Whyte.