Hawks boss lays down challenge after Alfie's heroics
The Hawks produced a performance full of intensity and purpose to demolish Grays Athletic 5-0 in the Ryman League premier division at Westleigh Park on Saturday.
Alfie Rutherford fired a hat-trick as the hosts overpowered and outclassed the Essex visitors.
Grays arrived on the back of three successive wins but proved no match for their inspired hosts.
Lee Bradbury saw it as the perfect start to a crucial Christmas period.
‘I have to be really pleased with that performance,’ said the Hawks boss.
‘We needed to match them with physicality and work-rate because they are a team on the up. I thought we did that brilliantly.
‘The first goal was always going to be important and when we got it that put us on the front foot.
‘We could have scored five or six in the first half and then another four or five after the break.
‘Without being disrespectful to the opposition, they were outclassed. We moved the ball quickly, played to our strengths and cut them to pieces.
‘It was important we didn’t pump high balls up front because that would have played into their hands.
‘I said to the players afterwards they have set the bar now. Their challenge is maintaining it.’
Rutherford gave the Hawks a dream start with a goal after four minutes.
Luke Wilson dawdled on the ball 25 yards away from his own goal and the 18-year-old striker was on him like a flash. He nicked the ball away, burst to the edge of the area and fired his shot into the net underneath the advancing goalkeeper.
From that point on, the Hawks were in total command.
Rutherford extended the lead on 25 minutes with an instinctive finish just inside the far post after a James Hayter header found him in the area.
Jason Prior. Hayter and Theo Lewis all missed chances to bury Grays before half-time.
With the interval approaching, Lee Molyneaux picked out the marauding Rory Williams with a sumptuous 50-yard ball.
The full-back hammered an angled shot home to claim a rare goal.
The Hawks maintained their tempo in the second half with Rutherford completing his hat-trick.
‘I think that is Alfie’s 10th goal in eight games,’ added Bradbury.
‘He is showing great energy, hunger and desire. Grays couldn’t handle him.
‘He puts defenders under pressure and has the knack of being in the right place at the right time.’
Rutherford’s 65th-minute goal was the pick as he displayed great composure before picking his spot.
Ryan Woodford completed the rout with a header on 84 minutes.
‘It is a great win and sets us up nicely for our big game at Bognor regis on Boxing Day.’
Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Woodford, Molyneaux, Williams, Stock, Lewis (Barker, 67min), Robinson, Rutherford (Paterson, 77min), Prior, Hayter (Swallow, 67min). Att: 560