'All of us are really excited' - Hawks boss Paul Doswell looks ahead to potentially welcoming 3,000-plus crowd for Portsmouth friendly
Manager Paul Doswell cannot wait to welcome Pompey to Westleigh Park for Hawks' marquee pre-season friendly on Saturday.
Danny Cowley's Blues will be making the short trip this weekend, with the teams meeting for the first time since 2019.
The usual annual fixture did not take place last year because of the pandemic and ongoing work to install a 3G surface at the ground.
But the pre-season clash is set for a return with up to 3,250 supporters able to attend.
It will represent the first time Hawks fans have been able to watch their team at Westleigh Park since a 0-0 draw with Slough Town last December 8. That was one of just two home National League South games at the ground watched by fans - the other was a victory over Chelmsford three days earlier.
Meanwhile, the Pompey faithful will be able to see their team under Cowley - appointed head coach in March - for the first time.
Doswell says it should be a great afternoon for all involved - and will provide a welcome boost to the club's coffers after such a difficult period financially.
He said: ‘The best game we had last season was at home against Chelmsford. It was the best we’d looked for a long time because we had 1,000 people in the ground.
‘We suffered badly in terms of not having crowds in with the atmosphere - it was the weirdest feeling having no crowd.
‘Playing in front of 3,000 up there on Saturday, it’ll be a great return for us all.
‘Everyone is excited, all of us are really excited, just having that buzz of a crowd being around a crowd at football again.
‘What a great occasion for our supporters as well to be able to come down and feel that buzz again.
‘It’s our key fixture of every pre-season because income-wise it’s huge for us, it gives us a headstart, it gives us a start to paying July’s wages.
‘It’s an important game to our club financially. Portsmouth fans coming down certainly help us, there’s no doubt about that, it’s just a great first game.’
Hawks began their pre-season programme with a 6-1 hammering of Wessex Leaguers Horndean at Five Heads Park last weekend.
Both striker Tommy Wright and new recruit Abdulai Baggie were nursing slight knocks from that victory but returned to training today ahead of the Pompey friendly.
Doswell admitted the scoreline is ultimately meaningless against the Blues - but he is hoping his new-look squad can offer Cowley's side a tricky test.
Doswell said: ‘The reality is the scoreline is relatively unimportant for both teams. Getting those minutes under your belt with no injuries is probably the most key part of pre-season and that will never change.
‘We want to be able to show - maybe that first hour - that we can and we are going in the right direction. We’re looking for steps in the right direction.’
Hawks' scheduled home friendly against Bristol Rovers at Westleigh Park next Tuesday has now been moved to Tuesday, July 27 at the League Two club's Memorial Ground.
As a result, Hawks have rescheduled their friendly at Southern League Premier South Salisbury, originally due to be played on July 27, to July 20.