Christmas cracker expected in derby duel

In-form Hawks striker Alfie Rutherford returns to face former club Bognor on Boxing Day   Picture: Ian Hargreaves
In-form Hawks striker Alfie Rutherford returns to face former club Bognor on Boxing Day Picture: Ian Hargreaves
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Lee Bradbury reckons a festive treat is on the cards as the Hawks take on Bognor in a Ryman League premier division top-of-the-table contest at Nyewood Lane on Boxing Day (3pm).

There is a lot of stake for both teams with the chance to end the year in second spot up for grabs.

The Rocks hold a two-point advantage over the visitors, who have a game in hand.

If that wasn’t enough, the game has the added spice of the return to Nyewood Lane for strike-duo Jason Prior and Alfie Rutherford.

Prior and Rutherford scored nearly 70 goals last season for the Rocks before departing for the Hawks in the summer.

The pair have carried on where they left off since making the switch and will pose a potent threat to the Sussex hosts.

Bradbury expects a severe test but is backing his team to handle the pressure situation.

He said: ‘It is a big game for both teams and a large crowd is expected.

‘These are the games you want to be playing in and it has the makings of being a real Christmas cracker.

‘Both teams like to get the ball down and play passing football.

‘At the same time neither team shirks the hard work necessary to compete.

‘It will almost certainly be played at a high tempo and our records show there isn’t a lot between the two sides.

‘We expect Bognor to come at us from the start, so it is vital we are on our mettle from the first whistle.

‘For us it is a case of staying focused and players making sure they do their jobs.’

Both teams head into the derby with excellent wins under their belt.

The Rocks returned from Folkestone Invicta with a hard-fought 2-1 victory.

At the same time, the Hawks were putting Grays Athletic to the sword with a 5-0 triumph at Westleigh Park.

Rutherford grabbed a hat-trick with defenders Rory Williams and Ryan Woodford also finding the net.

Williams has been one of the Hawks’ most consistent performers this season with his pace down the flanks.

If he gets the same opportunities in the derby, then he can cause the Rocks plenty of problems.

The visitors are still without injured pair Wes Fogden and Ed Harris but otherwise expect a clean bill of health.

Bradbury wants his team to carry on where they left off against Grays, which he called their best performance of the season.

To do that he knows his players will need to be sensible on Christmas Day.

He is backing them to resist the temptations of the occasion.

‘Christmas is a time for family and kids so I want my players to enjoy it,’ added Bradbury.

‘We have a fantastic professional bunch of players at the club who are sensible and experienced.

‘They all know how to prepare for games like this.’

Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Woodford, Molyneaux, Williams, Stock, Lewis, Robinson, Hayter, Rutherford, Prior, Paterson, Barker, Swallow, Tarbuck