Iain Baird confident new-look Havant & Waterlooville have physical strength to thrive in National League South

Ian Baird has revealed the Hawks squad has been built to deal with the demands of National League South.

Monday, 15th July 2019, 11:41 am
Updated Monday, 15th July 2019, 12:03 pm
Jonah Ayunga has been impressive in pre-season for the Hawks. Picture: Dave Haines

The Westleigh Park outfit have made a concerted effort to boost their physicality this summer in a bid to thrive in an increasingly competitive division.

And Baird is confident they are capable of rising to the challenge as they aim for an immediate return to the National League.

The assistant manager said: ‘To be successful in National League South you have to have a degree of physicality.

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‘It is a man’s game and not a tickling competition.

‘You have to have that physicality in a sensible way, not with stupid suspensions and not going out to deliberately hurt people.

‘It is all about having that will to win and desire coupled with the players’ ability.

‘If we can achieve that then hopefully we can do well.’

The Hawks showed they were not prepared to be outmuscled in their pre-season friendly with League One Pompey on Saturday.

And while they were beaten 2-1, there were plenty of positives in the side’s blend of youth and experience.

One player who has hit the ground running is Jonah Ayunga.

The 22-year-old striker scored a brace in friendlies at Alresford Town and Bognor.

And he would have added to his tally against Pompey but for a superb save from Craig MacGillivray.

Baird added: ‘We had Jonah with us at Sutton.

‘He came from a sleepy village in Dorset and started with Dorchester.

‘His move to Brighton wasn’t probably the best thing because he never really benefited from that.

‘After breaking his leg in Ireland he came to us and started off very encouragingly.

‘When we let him out on loan he did very well with the Hawks and then he had a dip like all young players do.

‘But he came back strong at the end of the season which was why we were so keen to sign him.

‘We are very pleased with him but it is all about where he goes from here.’

The Hawks continue their preparations against National League Sutton United at Westleigh Park on Saturday (3pm).