Hawks boss Shaun Gale is calling on match officials to give his flair players greater protection after midfield terrier Wes Fogden came in for some heavy-handed treatment at Dover Athletic on Saturday.
Fogden endured a testing afternoon in the 1-1 draw at the Crabble, with the home defence targeting him as the Hawks’ main threat right from the start.
Remarkably, the Hawks ended up having three players booked during the game, while all the home players received were stern lectures from the referee.
‘Our bookings were probably correct but all we ask for is consistency,’ said Gale.
‘I fear for Wes on occasions because he gets kicked from pillar to post.
‘I won’t say he’s a marked man but he does come in for a lot of punishment.
‘Three times at Dover, defenders went right through the back of him.
‘Opponents know he can be a match-winner so at times they resort to kicking him.
‘Referees have a very difficult job to do but I despair sometimes.
‘The players need a little bit of protection out there at times.
‘At Dover, none of their defenders were left walking a tightrope with a booking and that felt a bit unjust.’
Fogden is the Hawks’ leading scorer this term and one of Gale’s key players.
He showed his quality again at Dover with a superb individual goal, receiving the ball on the edge of the area, cleverly taking it around the outside of two defenders and angling his shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner.
The Hawks had to settle for a 1-1 draw in the end, although they had chances to go on and win the game.
The performance was extremely encouraging, with the Hawks outplaying one of the more fancied sides in the Blue Square Bet South for most of the contest.
‘If we continue playing like that we are going to win more games than we lose,’ said Gale.
The Hawks turn their attention this week to the FA Cup, starting their campaign against Southern League visitors Sholing at Westleigh Park on Saturday.
The Southampton-based side have lost their past few league games and the Hawks will start as firm favourites to progress.
Gale knows from experience, though, that in the FA Cup, league form counts for nothing and his side will need to be on their guard.
Sholing are a well-organised outfit with some good players, and if the Hawks are not on their mettle, they are fully capable of causing an upset.