Billy Clifford sent off for third time in his Hawks career as Dorking complete quickfire National League double at Westleigh Park

Hawks’ disciplinary woes returned to haunt them once again as Dorking completed a quickfire National League South double.

By Simon Carter
Sunday, 2nd January 2022, 7:56 pm
Hawks midfielder Billy Clifford is sent off. Picture: Dave Haines.
Hawks midfielder Billy Clifford is sent off. Picture: Dave Haines.

Midfielder Billy Clifford picked up the club’s 14th red card since February 2020 in front of the highest Westleigh Park attendance since Hawks’ National League days.

Defender Paul Rooney had seen red after just five minutes of the club’s record 8-0 mauling at Dorking’s Meadowbank Stadium on Boxing Day.

Again, Hawks failed to reach half-time with 11 men still on the pitch as Wanderers recorded a 3-1 success to move to within four points of top spot.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Billy Clifford's reaction to be red carded. Picture: Dave Haines

Clifford was initially booked for a foul on Niall McManus after just 10 minutes by referee Paul Johnson.

Hawks boss Paul Doswell was left bemoaning the fact that the official hadn’t taken into account a pitch soaked by a pre-match downpour.

Having been cautioned, Clifford then gave Johnson little option but to brandish another yellow on 28 minutes for bringing down Darren Oldaker.

It was a needless challenge and one that ensured Hawks’ fourth home league loss in six games - the other two were drawn - was partially self-inflicted.

Nick Wheeler opens the scoring for Dorking. Picture: Dave Haines

Doswell made three changes to the side who drew 0-0 with Hemel on December 28.

Loanee keeper Will Mannion had tested positive for Covid so the fit-again Ross Worner was recalled for his first game since mid-October.

Jamie Collins replaced the suspended Rooney in a three-man backline alongside skipper Joe Oastler and Josh Passley.

Benny Read came in at right wing-back, with striker Alex Wall left out and Tommy Wright - who had started in a deep-lying role against Hemel - restored alongside James Roberts that left Hawks short of height up top.

Tommy Wright takes the ball past Dorking keeper Dan Lincoln prior to shooting just wide. Picture: Dave Haines

The home side had started brightly, causing Dorking the sort of problems that were lacking on Boxing Day.

First, visiting keeper Dan Lincoln failed to punch clear a Clifford free-kick, the ball going behind for Hawks’ first corner. Then a neat Jake Andrews pass found Clifford unmarked in the Dorking area, with Lincoln diving to his right to beat out a low shot.

The game turned in a crucial six-minute spell.

On 26 minutes, Wright muscled his way past left-back Jordan Cheadle and advanced into the 18-yard box. Running across the penalty area, he evaded Lincoln’s dive but stumbled and fired a shot that was agonisingly inches wide. It would have been a great solo effort.

Jake Andrews' reaction after Tommy Wright's first half miss. Picture: Dave Haines

Dorking promptly went up the other end and Nick Wheeler struck the angle of post and crossbar.

Clifford then picked up his second red card of the campaign - he had previously been dismissed at Tonbridge in November - and the third of his Hawks career.

It was the fifth red shown to a Hawks player this season, following on from six in a truncated 2020/21 campaign. Prior to that, Bedsente Gomis and Simon Walton had been dismissed in successive home league games in February 2020 and in that season’s play-off semi-final Josh Taylor was red carded against Dartford when Hawks were winning (only to lose 2-1).

With Hawks no doubt stunned by their latest dismissal, three minutes later Wheeler stole in front of Benny Read at the back post to stab in a Barry Fuller cross.

It was a nightmare double whammy - a sending off and a goal - and completely changed the complexion of what wa shaping up to be a fascinating encounter.

Jake McCarthy was close to an instant leveller, screwing a shot wide as he was slipping, before Dorking turned the screw with a second on 38 minutes.

Dorking's Jason Prior watched by Hawks defender Josh Passley. Picture: Dave Haines

Right winger Matt Briggs - once linked with Pompey a few years ago - whipped in an inviting cross and ex-Hawk Jason Prior got ahead of Oastler to head in.

It was a classic striker’s goal at the same end where he had scored his previous goal at the ground - the late, late effort against Concord in April 2018 that clinched the National League South title.

‘We’re going to win 9-0’ chirped the jubilant Dorking fans, but that never looked like being the case.

Wanderers made a double defensive sub at the interval, bringing on Bobby-Joe Taylor for Cheadle and Sami El-Abd for Oldaker.

On Boxing Day, armed with a 5-0 lead at half-time against 10 men, Dorking had continued to pile forward in the second half. Here, they seemed happy to stay in a low gear, passing the ball around and denying Hawks possession.

Still, the best chances fell to the visitors - Briggs seeing a 30-yarder beaten away by Worner and Alfie Rutherford, a peripheral figure throughout after his Boxing Day hat-trick, setting up McManus to shoot just wide.

From virtually out of nothing, Hawks were handed a lifeline via a stunning Wright goal on 68 minutes.

After Roberts’ surging run had ended when he was crowded out by defender, Wright picked up possession and fired a lovely 20-yarder that flew over Lincoln’s head and dipped in under the crossbar.

Rutherford lashed a shot way over the bar - his only sight of goal throughout - before Hawks made an attacking double change. On came striker Scott Rendell to add some height and Abdulai Baggie was also thrown on. Off came Roberts and Read, with Hawks going from a five-man defensive unit to four.

Fortune didn’t favour the brave. After ex-Hawk Josh Taylor had warmed Warner’s hands with a 20-yarder - and Rutherford was booked for kicking the ball away - Dorking sealed victory three minutes from time.

With more space in the home defence, Briggs played in McManus to slide a low shot into the bottom corner and seal Dorking’s fourth successive league victory.

One positive for Hawks was the attendance of 1,711, the club’s highest since they attracted 2,058 for a National League game against Leyton Orient in March 2019. And, on that day, the table-topping Londonders brought a sizeable travelling army with them.

Hawks: Worner, Read (Rendell, 80), Newton, Oastler, Collins, Passley, Clifford, McCarthy, Andrews, Wright, Roberts (Baggie, 80).

Dorking: Lincoln, Fuller, Cheadle (B-J Taylor, 46), Gallagher, Oldaker, J Taylor, McManus, Wheeler, Briggs, Rutherford, Prior.

Attendance: 1,711.