Hawks have eyes on Premier stage
A chance of playing on a Premier League stage is at stake as the Hawks host Basingstoke Town in the semi-finals of the Hampshire Senior Cup at Westleigh Park tonight (7.45pm).
The showpiece final is being played at St Marys Stadium – the home of Southampton.
The winners will meet either Winchester City or Fleet Town in the final next month.
It is the first of two massive games for the Hawks against their north Hampshire rivals in the space of five days.
They meet again in a crucial Vanarama National League South encounter at the Camrose Ground on Saturday.
Assistant manager Shaun Gale admitted it is a big week for his side.
‘We will be looking to win both games,’ said Gale.
‘The cup is important to us because we want to win some silverware.
‘The Hampshire Senior Cup has eluded us and we will be taking it seriously.
‘We will be treating them as two totally separate games with different things at stake.
‘I don’t believe what happens in the cup game will have any bearing on the league encounter.
‘We will be fielding a strong squad but at the same time won’t be taking any silly risks with players.
‘A number are carrying knocks and they will need to be protected for the weekend.
‘It is a question of finding the right blend in the context of the bigger picture.
‘Although we have an option of including some of our youngsters, we won’t be fielding a team of kids.’
Staying in the league is the obvious priority for the Hawks so they can be expected to make a number of changes.
Some of their squad players who have not been playing recently can expect a recall.
The likes of Warren Cummings, Dan Blanchett, Theo Lewis Matt Paterson, James Hayter and Lee Molyneaux could all feature.
If the Hawks are to make the final they will need to show a big improvement on their last-round showing.
Then they were outplayed by Wessex League premier division AFC Portchester for most of the game, before the visitors won the tie on penalties.
The last time they were in the final the Hawks lost out to Basingstoke after extra-time, so the home side will be keen to make up for that tonight.
‘We were disappointed to lose in our last final and would love to go one better this time around,’ added Gale.
‘First we have to get past Basingstoke and it won’t be easy.
‘They are having an indifferent season like us but they have some good players.
‘We have beaten them twice already at Westleigh Park this season in the FA Trophy and league but that will count for nothing.’
Hawks: Young, Searle, Cummings, Haran, Molyneaux, Hill, Blanchett, Thomson, Lewis, Mitchell, Paterson, Hayter, Mullings, Ciardini, Swallow, Donnelly, Stock, Strugnell, Kimber, Ridge, Medway