Hawks skipper Joe Oastler: Club record loss at Dorking Wanderers ‘knocked the stuffing out of us’

Skipper Joe Oastler reflected on a failed play-off challenge and admitted the club record defeat at Dorking played a huge part.

By Simon Carter
Friday, 13th May 2022, 8:51 am
Hawks skipper Joe Oastler, right, with Chippenham's Mo Dabre in last weekend's losing National League South finale at Westleigh Park. Picture by Dave Haines.

Hawks were sitting fourth in the National League South when they travelled to Surrey on Boxing Day. On a horrendous afternoon, they were 2-0 down inside six minutes and down to 10 men with Paul Rooney sent off.

Hawks were 5-0 down at the interval and eventually crumbled to an 8-0 defeat - the heaviest in the club’s history.

It kickstarted a run of just three points from a possible 27. And, considering Hawks finished just two points outside the play-offs, it is obvious how damaging that run was in the final reckoning.

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It is easy to point to certain games where points were tossed away - Tonbridge’s last minute leveller at Westleigh Park in January, Manny Duku’s late missed penalty in a 0-0 draw at Bath in April. A four extra points would have been enough, but all clubs have their ‘if only …’ stories.

‘It was a horrendous result at Dorking,’ recalled Oastler. ‘We were in a good place going into that game. We didn’t expect to get beat, let alone 8-0. It knocked the stuffing out of us a little bit.’

Asked if it had a damaging effect on confidence, Oastler added: ‘Judging from the (following) results, yes it did.

‘We had massive injuries to key players. Not niggles, but six to eight week jobs. We also had suspensions. That period killed us in the end. The confidence had gone a little bit and it was tough for 12 games or so.

‘Over the season, the middle part wasn’t good enough. That’s what ultimately cost us.’

Hawks would have finished in the play-offs had they avoided defeat at home to Chippenham last Saturday in their final game. As it was, they conceded two second-half goals and lost 2-0.

‘Obviously we were gutted,’ Oastler said. ‘We had three good chances in the first 10 minutes. It we take two of those, it kills the game.

‘We just didn’t turn up in the second half. We had to hold our hands up - Chippenham deserved to win. In the second half we weren’t good enough.’

Oastler knows it won’t be any easier next season, with three extra clubs in the National League South. Dover and Weymouth have come down from the National League, while Taunton and Farnborough (Southern League) and Worthing and Cheshunt (Isthmian League) have come up from step 3.

‘It’s a really tough league,’ Oastler remarked. ‘Next season will be the sixth I’ve played (in the NL South) and it gets tougher every year. It’s a very competitive league.

‘We expected to be in and around the top (in 2021/22). We have to do better.

‘In the last few home games, we hardly conceded a goal and scored a lot – the squad’s got it within them.

‘We had showed a lot of character (to be in with a chance of finishing in the play-offs). At one point you couldn’t see where the next result was coming from.’

Chippenham last night condemned Dartford to another season in the sixth tier by winning their play-off eliminator on penalties in Kent.

The Darts had finished 15 points ahead of the Bluebirds in the 40-game NLS season.

Chippenham now travel to Ebbsfleet in the second play-off semi-final on Sunday. Dorking host Oastler’s former club Oxford City in the first semi tomorrow.