Ritchie wary of North Leigh banana skin

Hawks striker Sahr Kabba
Hawks striker Sahr Kabba
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The Hawks kick-off their FA Cup campaign with an awkward-looking second qualifying round tie at Southern League south & west outfit North Leigh (3pm).

With Stuart Ritchie’s side making a disappointing start to the new season in the Blue Square Bet South, the little-known Oxfordshire side will fancy their chances of pulling off a shock result.

That fact isn’t lost on the Westleigh Park boss, who is expecting a difficult afternoon.

But having led former club AFC Totton to a 4-2 victory at the Eynsham Hall Park Sports Ground last term, he is fully aware of what lies ahead.

‘It is a tight little ground with a sloping pitch and we can expect a difficult time,’ said Ritchie.

‘Potentially, it is could be a big banana skin for us.

‘The pitch isn’t great and North Leigh use it to their advantage well.

‘They are usually a big side and, like in any cup game, it is down to who wants it the most on the day.

‘They will raise their game and we have to go and be prepared to deal with everything they throw at us.

‘We can’t afford to worry about the surroundings and must do a professional job.’

Ritchie’s side have proved resilient on their travels so far this term, earning league draws at Truro, Staines and Sutton United.

And they will need to be equally resilient again if they are to make sure their name goes into the draw for the next round.

The visitors are likely to be without midfield loanee Aaron Dawson, though, with his parent club Exeter City not wanting him cup-tied.

However, fellow midfielder Stefan Bailey makes a timely return from suspension.

Full-back Jake Newton, who had been out with a knee injury, also trained in the week without any reaction and should be included.

Meanwhile, striker Sahr Kabba is expected to play some part, despite limping off in the first half at Sutton United.

‘We will need to show a lot of character, resolve and backbone,’ said Ritchie.

‘The players have shown this already, particularly last week when we were under the cosh for long periods at Sutton.

‘We must improve our passing game, though, because at times we are giving the ball away far too easily.

‘We have been difficult to beat but are yet to consistently show the quality to win games.

‘A good Cup run will help give us increased momentum and we don’t want any setbacks.

‘North Leigh will come out of the blocks at us and we will have to be ready for them.’

Hawks: Masters, Arthur, Page, Harris, Newton, Hinshelwood, Bailey, Hutchinson, Taggart, Ryan, Ramsey, Nanetti, Palmer, Moss, Jones, Kabba, Woodford