‘Little building block’ for Hawks as they drop out of National League South play-off zone after extending winless Westleigh Park run against Hemel

Hawks dropped out of the National League South play-off zone after extending their winless run at Westleigh Park to five matches.

By Simon Carter
Tuesday, 28th December 2021, 7:29 pm
Joe Oastler about to head a corner over. Picture: Dave Haines
Joe Oastler about to head a corner over. Picture: Dave Haines

But boss Paul Doswell was right to describe the 0-0 stalemate with Hemel Hempstead as a ‘little building block’ in the wake of their Boxing Day massacre at Dorking.

After conceding eight in one game, Hawks’ makeshift defence were able to celebrate a clean sheet - only the club’s fifth in 18 league matches this season.

Fans would surely have been happy with the effort and energy levels shown by the team, most of whom were playing their second game in three days while Hemel had not played since December 18.

Tommy Wright on the ball for Hawks. Picture: Dave Haines

The only thing missing was a goal, leaving Hawks winless in the NL South at home since October 9. Since then, they have lost to Slough and Bath and drawn with Maidstone, Dulwich and now Hemel.

Doswell made just two changes from the side that had started at Dorking, with striker Alex Wall making his first league start for the club in place of Scott Rendell and Billy Clifford coming in for the injured Oscar Gobern.

In a tactical switch, striker Tommy Wright operated in a deep-lying role behind Wall.

Hemel, who were aiming for their sixth away league win in a row, were missing the creativity of ex-Aston Villa midfielder Samir Carruthers through suspension but handed debuts to striker Charlee Hughes and Stevenage loanee midfielder Alfie Williams.

Hawks midfielder Jake Andrews. Picture: Dave Haines

Wall was just inches away from connecting with a third minute Passley cross and Roberts hit a low shot straight at Craig King in an encouraging start.

Wall fired a 16th minute free-kick into the defensive wall before Andrews’ free-kick also struck the wall, deflecting for a corner. From the nicely worked short corner move that followed, Clifford fired over the bar.

At the other end, Wright gave away a foul right on the edge of the Hawks’ penalty area but captain Sam Mantom curled his set-piece wide.

It was end to end stuff, without really being that entertaining, and Mantom whistled a shot over the bar from the edge of the Hawks 18-yard box before Rooney shot wide from a similar range.

Billy Clifford goes past Hemel skipper Sam Mantom. Picture by Dave Haines

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It was virtually the centre half’s last contribution, as he went off suffering from blurred vision after suffering an injury in an aerial challenge. Benny Read came on at right wing back with Passley moving into a back three alongside Joe Oastler and Jake McCarthy.

In first half stoppage time, Wall was given a sight of goal but didn’t get much power in his effort and King saved easily. Hawks would struggle to have a better opportunity in the game.

Hemel brought on left back Aaron Simpson at the interval for Dan Wishart, the sub having achieved fame (!) by appearing on the seventh series of Love Island earlier this year.

He will no doubt remember those TV appearances better than he will this match, as second half chances were few and far between.

Manton, given a clear sight of goal just inside the Hawks penalty area, shot straight at Mannion while Simpson also forced the keeper into a routine save.

Hawks made two attacking changes, bringing on Rendell for Wall and moving Wright up front when James Roberts made way for loanee midfielder Leon Chambers-Parillon.

Hemel brought on ex-Hawks midfielder Chris Paul on 82 minutes, and his late shot was tipped over for a corner by Mannion. From the flag-kick, Hemel defender Cole Kpekawa headed straight at Mannion.

As for Hawks, the nearest they came was when Oastler headed over from a corner. In truth, a winner for either side would have been harsh. A point each was easily the fairest outcome and, following the Boxing Day rout at Dorking, one Hawks were very happy to bank.

Hawks: Mannion, Passley, Newton, Oastler, Rooney (Read, 45), McCarthy, Clifford, Andrews, Wright, Wall (Rendell, 58), Roberts (Chambers-Parillon, 71).

Hemel: King, Scott-Morriss, Wishart (Simpson, 46), Morgan-Griffiths (Paul, 80), Westbrook, Kpekawa, Williams, Mantom, Cerulli (Addai, 70), Hughes, Castiglione.

Attendance: 972.