Dressing room slip adds another name to Hawks’ horrendous injury list

It was a phone call Hawks manager Paul Doswell was more than half expecting. But it was still a conversation that only added to the worst injury crisis of his managerial career.

By Simon Carter
Sunday, 14th November 2021, 1:47 pm
Maidstone keeper Ryan Sandford punches the ball away from Oscar Gobern. Picture: Dave Haines
Maidstone keeper Ryan Sandford punches the ball away from Oscar Gobern. Picture: Dave Haines

On Saturday morning, ahead of Maidstone’s visit in the National League South, Doswell knew he had eight players out injured.

A week earlier, Ross Worner, Manny Adebowale and Alex Wall had missed the FA Cup tie at Charlton.

Sam Magri suffered a season-ending ACL knee injury at The Valley and Jamie Collins (hamstring) and Scott Rendell (ribs) went off in the first 20 minutes of Tuesday’s league win at Tonbridge.

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A high foot from Billy Clifford. Picture by Dave Haines.

Right wing-back Josh Passley played in midweek despite hurting his back before the game, but had to phone Doswell just hours before the Maidstone game and admit defeat.

In addition to those already mentioned, Godfrey Poku is unlikely to figure this season due to an ACL injury suffered in February while Benny Read has yet to figure in 2021/22 due to a shoulder operation and hamstring injury.

That left Doswell naming only four subs for Saturday’s 0-0 National League stalemate - keeper Charlie Searle and three midfielders, including 37-year-old Nicky Bailey who has returned to Westleigh Park after answering the manager’s SOS call. Elsewhere in the matchday 15, two were loanees - keeper Will Mannion and Leon Chambers-Parillon (who has not played since limping off at Charlton with a calf problem).

The eleven who lined up against Maidstone were the only players available to Doswell who had actually started a NL South fixture this season.

Hawks keeper Will Mannion dives full length. Picture: Dave Haines

With Passley injured, Hawks named a flat back four - centre halves Joe Oastler and Paul Rooney (himself not 100 per fit due to tendonitis) and two left-backs, Joe Newton and Michael Green.

Newton was asked to deputise on the right side for Passley, and was Hawks’ best player - even though James Roberts was awarded the man of the match prize.

Had Hawks suffered any more defensive injuries, either Bailey or Jake McCarthy could have filled in. But with no Wall or Rendell, Doswell had no height up front - either from the start or off the bench.

Elsewhere, Abdulai Baggie, who passed a late fitness test on an ankle injury picked up at Tonbridge, was handed his fourth league start for the club and his first at Westleigh Park.

James Roberts' second half shot is just over. Picture: Dave Haines.

Passley had slipped up in the dressing room at Tonbridge and was struggling to walk the following day.

‘Josh had seen an osteopath and in truth we were hoping for a miracle,’ explained Doswell. ‘I got a call this morning from Josh - I told him not to even come to the game, he didn’t need to drive a car with his back injury.

‘It was a flat back four - ‘I’ve only got what I’ve got - but Joe Newton was fantastic, the best player on the pitch.

‘I knew we didn’t have any attacking options on the bench - Nicky Bailey can only manage 10/15 minutes at the moment, Theo (Widdrington) has been on loan at Gosport and Leon (Chambers-Parillon) hasn’t had many games.

Hawks' Jake McCarthy tries to get his head on the ball from a first half corner. Picture: Dave Haines

‘Nicky’s come in because he can play full back or centre half, but today he went on at centre forward.’

Maidstone, too, were not without their own injury/suspension/unavailability woes. Key centre half George Elokobi and midfielder Sam Corne were missing, Regan Booty was suspended and Charlton loanee Hady Ghandour was on international duty with Lebanon.

The Stones racked up with only one point from their last five league matches and only two goals - both in a 3-2 loss at Hungerford - in their previous six league and FA Cup outings.

Despite both sides’ selection issues, the largest crowd at Westleigh Park this season - 1,554 - were treated to an end-to-end affair. Though neither keeper had to pull off a string of saves, and clear chances were at a premium, I’d give a seven out of 10 entertainment rating. A bore draw it certainly wasn’t.

Next up for Hawks is a league trip to second-from-bottom Braintree next Saturday. The Essex club were leading 1-0 at Hampton & Richmond yesterday, on course for only a third win in 14 league games, when the floodlights failed and the game was abandoned.

Doswell admits he is unlikely to have any more new faces on show, and actually loses one player to suspension.

Hawks striker Tommy Wright battles with his former Westleigh Park colleague Roarie Deacon. Picture: Dave Haines

‘It could be a couple of weeks before we get anyone in on loan. It’s not easy - you have to try and find accommodation, and the players have got to want to come. We had two lined up but they sustained minor injuries.

‘Billy Clifford’s now suspended next week so we might only have two (outfield) subs there. Perhaps Benny Read or Josh will be ok. I’ve never known anything like this in 25 years as a manager.’

Roberts and Paul Rooney remain on four bookings, knowing another yellow at Braintree will trigger a one-game ban. But come the end of November, disciplinary rules change with no bans issued unless a player collects 10 league cautions.