Hawks will have to win three away games in 10 days to book National League return – IF they manage to reach South play-offs

Hawks will need to dramatically improve their away form if they are to book a return to the top tier of non-league football.

By Simon Carter
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 9:53 am

Paul Doswell’s side have only won one of their last 11 away National League South fixtures – a -1-0 success at Dulwich Hamlet in March.

But they will need to win three away matches in the space of 10 hectic days if they want to win promotion.

And they might need to beat the teams who finish second, third and fourth if they are to return to the National League.

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Manny Duku celebrates after scoring Hawks' winner at Dulwich - their only away NL South victory since mid-December. Picture: Dave Haines

Hawks - languishing in 14th place in mid-February - will claim a stunning play-off place if they avoid defeat in their last game at home to Chippenham this Saturday.

A Chippenham win would see the Wiltshire club leap above Hawks and finish in the sixth and final play-off place.

On the basis Hawks finish seventh, they would travel to the fourth-placed club - currently Dartford - in the second eliminator next Thursday, May 12.

Oxford City (currently 5th) would host Eastbourne Borough (6th) the previous evening.

Hawks would then travel to the club who finishes third - currently Ebbsfleet - in the play-off semi on Sunday, May 15.

Oxford or Eastbourne will travel to Dorking - guaranteed to finish runners-up - on Saturday, May 14, though that could pushed back 24 hours if both clubs agree due to the FA Cup final.

The play-off final will take place on Saturday, May 21 at the club who finished highest in the play-offs.

Hawks could still finish sixth, but would need to overturn a six-goal goal difference on Eastbourne.

If Hawks won 3-0 and Eastbourne lost by the same score at home to Dartford, the two clubs would finish level on points with the same goal difference. The Sussex outfit would finish sixth, though, as they have scored more goals than Hawks.

The three divisions of the National League are the only ones in the pyramid where six clubs take part in the play-offs.

The system was introduced ahead of the 2017/18 season, and at the end of that campaign Braintree - who finished sixth - won NL South promotion. They had finished 17 points adrift of runners-up Dartford.

The following season, runners-up Woking went up via the play-offs and in 2019/20 Weymouth - who had finished third, four points behind Hawks - won promotion after beating luckless Dartford on penalties.

In 2017/18, Truro City became the first seventh-placed finisher to qualify for the NL South play-offs. They banked 69 points, while Hawks could finish in the same position with 11 fewer points (albeit from two fewer games).

But for all this talk of play-off dates and venues, one thing must not be forgotten - Hawks still have work to do to get there!