Hawks seeking to create more National League South play-off momentum – but boss Doswell insists: ‘Under-estimate Hungerford at your peril’

Ross Worner is expected to have recovered from injury as Hawks look to carry on building National League South play-off momentum.
Match winner Manny Duku in action for Hawks during their impressive weekend win at Dulwich Hamlet.
Picture by Dave HainesMatch winner Manny Duku in action for Hawks during their impressive weekend win at Dulwich Hamlet.
Picture by Dave Haines
Match winner Manny Duku in action for Hawks during their impressive weekend win at Dulwich Hamlet. Picture by Dave Haines

The goalkeeper sat out the weekend win at Dulwich Hamlet with a neck injury, Charlie Searle keeping a clean sheet on his first NLS appearance of the season.

But Worner trained on Tuesday morning and should reclaim his place for Wednesday’s home clash with Hungerford, where another victory could see Hawks further narrow the gap to the top seven.

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Manny Duku’s second half winner at Dulwich gave Hawks a third win in four games - the other was drawn - which scissored the gap between themselves and the play-off spots to five points.

That is a far cry from a few weeks ago when Hawks were 10 points off the top seven after a dismal nine-match winless league streak.

‘Four games is a long time in football,’ said Hawks boss Paul Doswell. ‘A week is a long time.

‘The players we’ve brought in have made a real difference and we’re starting to get one or two back as well.

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‘Having said that, we only had 14 at Dulwich after losing two players on the day - it just seems constant at the moment.’

In addition to Worner failing a fitness test, midfielder Jake McCarthy withdrew due to sickness. He also trained on Tuesday, though, and is in contention to face a Hungerford side who have only taken one point from their last six away games.

Doswell, though, knows the Berkshire side can be dangerous - they were 2-0 up at title hopefuls Maidstone in their last away game before conceding two goals in the last 10 minutes to lose 3-2.

They also beat leaders Dorking away - one of six away league wins they had accrued before Christmas.

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‘You under-estimate Hungerford at your peril,’ said Doswell. ‘People shouldn’t be surprised where they’re at. They’ve got a 20-goal striker and real pace.

‘I know they see the likes of us and Maidstone as big scalps, but at the moment they’re a scalp for other teams. They are where they are for a reason.’

Hawks would jump above Hungerford into the top 10 if they can record a third successive Westleigh Park success.

That would give them an extra boost ahead of Saturday’s tough trip to lofty Dartford.

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‘There’s still a quarter of the season left,’ said Doswell. ‘And I’ve always said March and April will be crucial months.

‘We’ve got 11 games left and I reckon we’ll need 61, 62 points - that means we need two points a game, championship winning form.

‘But if we can get a win against Hungerford, that means we’ll need six wins from 10 - you can afford a blip in a few games.’

The lowest points total in the last decade by a team finishing seventh is Maidenhead, who only banked 59 in 2015/16. Back then, Whitehawk (65 points) finished fifth in the final play-off place.

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‘The attitude has always been there,’ said Doswell of his squad. ‘What’s cost us this season is injuries - continual injuries and long injuries.

‘But there’s a bit more confidence now, which you’re going to get after winning three out of four and drawing the other.

‘Another win against Hungerford and that would be 13 points out of 15.

‘We think sixth and seventh spots are up for grabs - there’s about six teams aiming for those two spaces.

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‘Because we won at Dulwich, we feel we’re one of those six. It was a huge win there.’

Ex-Hawks loanee Ryan Seager will be Hungerford’s main threat. He netted both his side’s consolations in a 4-2 loss in January 2020 at Westleigh Park and with 21 goals is the second highest marksman in the NLS this season – two behind Shaun Jeffers of St Albans.