Stubborn Hawks delight Bradbury

The Hawks players celebrate after Ben Wright, second from right, nets his second goal in their 3-2 win over rivals Gosport Boroughl. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
The Hawks players celebrate after Ben Wright, second from right, nets his second goal in their 3-2 win over rivals Gosport Boroughl. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Baffins Milton Rovers found it tough against Portland. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

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Lee Bradbury praised the character of his Hawks side after they claimed derby glory on Boxing Day.

Nic Ciardini snatched the winner as the Westleigh Park outfit defeated visitors Gosport Borough 3-2 in Vanarama Conference South.

In an enthralling encounter, the Hawks twice came from behind with Ben Wright continuing his fine start to life at the club by netting a double.

His goals cancelled out strikes from Borough hotshots Matt Paterson and Justin Bennett.

Ciardini then turned the tables to put the home side in front for the first time with just eight minutes to go.

Bradbury was delighted by the never-say-die attitude his men displayed as they chalked up a first victory in five matches against their south-coast rivals.

‘We had to keep digging in and be stubborn to come away with a massive three points,’ said the Hawks boss.

‘It took good character for us to come from behind twice because not many teams have done that against Gosport with their good defensive record.

‘Although we had the better chances in the first half, we found ourselves a goal down against the run of play.

‘We could have been ahead in the opening minutes but Nic Ciardini had his header saved.

‘We worked hard and showed our determination not to be beaten.

‘For the neutral it was a terrific game in very difficult conditions.

‘It got a bit tense towards the end when Gosport threw everything at us but I thought we defended well.’

Ciardini, who was the Hawks’ leading scorer last season, was recalled to the side for the derby.

Bradbury opted to be bold and play him as well as winger Ben Swallow.

And the pair repaid their manager’s faith with Ciardini producing a timely contribution.

Bradbury said: ‘We wanted to be positive in the wide areas and yesterday was the first time I played both Nic Ciardini and Ben Swallow.

‘Ben gave them all sorts of problems and in the end they replaced the full-back marking him with a more experienced player.

‘Nic chose the perfect time to score his first goal of the season and that will only boost his confidence.

‘He got 15 goals for us last season.’

Meanwhile, Wright continued to win admirers at Westleigh Park with a superb double.

And Bradbury warned rivals there is more to come from his new hitman.

He said: ‘Ben again showed what a good finisher he is with both our equalisers – the first with a header and the second with a good piece of finishing.

‘He hadn’t played too many minutes before coming to us and he is only going to get better as he gets fitter and sharper.

‘Since arriving here he has shown a good eye for goal.’

Wright’s next opportunity to find the net for the Hawks will come tomorrow – at Bishop’s Stortford (3pm).

Bradbury added: ‘We have to try to pick up another three points.’