The manager’s six-game touchline ban ended with a 3-1 Westleigh Park loss to Dorking Wanderers.
Hawks were well in the game when Billy Clifford was sent off after just 28 minutes with the score still goalless.
It was the second time in eight days that Hawks had suffered an early red card against Dorking, following on from Paul Rooney’s dismissal in the 8-0 Boxing Day mauling in Surrey.
Dorking went ahead three minutes after Clifford was sent off for a second bookable foul and ex-Hawks striker Jason Prior doubled the lead before half-time.
Though Tommy Wright gave the 10 men renewed hope with a stunning strike, Wanderers sealed victory late on through Niall McManus.
Hawks remained in eighth place after losing to Dorking as St Albans were beaten at home by Hemel Hempstead. But Hawks’ home record – just two wins in nine attempts – is a big cause for concern going into the second half of the season.
‘I’m disappointed with the result but incredibly proud of the performance,’ stated Doswell regarding today’s result.
‘For the first 25 minutes we were the better side and should have been in front. If it had stayed 11 v 11 it would have been a good game.’
Hawks had two good chances before Dorking scored - Wright shooting inches wide from close range after taking the ball past keeper Dan Lincoln and Jake McCarthy screwing a shot wide.
‘Tommy Wright scored one worldie and could have had another. He just stumbled as he took the ball past the keeper,’ said Doswell.
‘Jake McCarthy couldn’t quite get his feet sorted out (when he shot wide).’
Doswell admitted Clifford’s dismissal was a turning point.
‘It was a massive body blow to lose Billy Clifford,’ he remarked.
‘I thought both (yellow cards) were soft.
‘You would hope with the first one (foul on McManus) the referee would say ‘it’s a wet, slippery surface’ - there was a deluge beforehand - and told Billy ‘that’s your last one’.
‘Billy’s apologised in the changing room, he feels he’s let himself and the team down, and if I’m being honest he probably has.
‘Billy’s unfortunately given the referee the option by going to ground. If you’ve already been booked, you need to stay on your feet.
‘He doesn’t need to be told that, he’s an experienced player.
‘It didn’t help that their (Dorking) bench all jumped up and their team surrounded the referee. They wanted Billy off because they knew we were controlling the game.’
Nick Wheeler put Dorking ahead when he got in ahead of right wing back Benny Read to stab in a Matt Briggs cross.
‘It was poor defending for the first goal - Wheeler has got in front of Benny - and we needed to hold on until half-time,’ said Doswell.
‘Give them credit for the second goal, it was a great cross from Fuller and a bullet header from Prior.
‘We could have folded, but we didn’t, and if you know football you know how hard it is playing against 11 good players. That’s why I’m proud of them, and I’ve told them that.’
‘In the second half there was an immense effort and a Tommy Wright worldie gave us a bit of hope.
‘I’m proud of the effort and the desire to keep going. We showed we are a fit squad.
‘I’ve still got confidence in the group - that’s an important message to get out there.
‘It’s a strong group and they will be together again next season. I won’t judge them until the end of this season.
‘We’re eighth and almost at the halfway stage, I would have taken that with all our injury problems. Even our loanees haven’t been available.
‘We have had horrendous luck with injuries - Alex Wall’s hardly been available all season. He was warming up today and felt something in his calf so he couldn’t go on.’
Hawks are now inactive until January 22. Already without a game next Saturday due to the league having an odd number of clubs, their scheduled January 15 home game with Dartford is off due to the Kent club’s FA Trophy commitments.
Doswell said the time will be used to get Oscar Gobern, Nicky Bailey and Wall fit again, while they are also awaiting news on Oxford United loanee Leon Chambers-Parillon.
The midfielder has returned to his parent club after complaining of breathlessness after his second half run-out against Hemel on December 28.
‘It’s a cardiac issue and Oxford have sent Leon for a scan,’ confirmed Doswell.
‘We’ve got an opportunity to get some of our injured players back now. If we can get in the top seven it’s been a fantastic season. At the moment it’s looking tough.
‘We’ve just played three games in eight days. Dorking haven’t had to do that and neither have Hemel.
‘Hemel won 3-1 at St Albans today - that shows how good a result we had against them (two days after losing on Boxing Day when Hemel didn’t play).
‘Football is a funny game and perhaps we’ll get Dorking in the play-offs. I’d fancy playing them with 11 men, I really would.’
Hawks have seen the last of loan keeper Will Mannion, who missed the Dorking home loss after testing positive for Covid. His loan spell from Cambridge United will have ended by the time Hawks return to action at Billericay.
Doswell, meanwhile, confirmed he is looking to bring in a defender on loan in the next few weeks.
‘I want to play Paul Rooney in midfield,’ he stated. ‘We need to get an ‘enforcer’ in there.’