Hawks manager Lee Bradbury admits he faces a challenge lifting his players back up after missing out on a dream trip to Wembley.
Bradbury and his side have been left devastated by their two-legged FA Trophy semi-final defeat at the hands of local rivals Gosport Borough.
Tim Sills, who scored Borough’s first-leg goal in a 1-1 draw at Westleigh Park, grabbed another two on Saturday at Privett Park to earn Borough a 3-1 aggregate win over the two legs.
It wasn’t so much the loss – though that was bad enough – but the nature of their exit that was disappointing.
The Hawks failed to perform and their Wembley dreams ended up in tatters.
Bradbury has little time to dwell on the Trophy disaster, though, as he attempts to pick up the pieces tonight against Whitehawk.
The two sides meet in a Skrill South encounter at Westleigh Park (7-45pm), with the Hawks boss still finding it difficult to explain why his players failed so badly at the weekend.
‘To be within touching distance but not do it is devastating,’ said Bradbury.
‘There were tears in the dressing room and it is heartbreaking.
‘I told the players that for an occasion as big as it was they didn’t go out and play as well as they could.
‘Gosport did a job on us and we didn’t perform.
‘We needed to be much braver on the ball but it didn’t happen.
‘I can’t fault the effort from my players but we lacked the courage to play our normal football.’
The Hawks had their chances, particularly in the first half when Nic Ciardini should have scored in a one-on-one situation with home goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore.
Ciardini curled another effort just past a post and Hawks’ man of the match Perry Ryan whistled another shot inches wide.
Bradbury’s team, however, lacked a sense of urgency even after falling behind on the stroke of half-time.
Ashmore hardly had a save to make in the second half as the Hawks’ efforts fizzled out.
Dennis Oli, Scott Jones and half-time substitute Sahr Kabba up front made little impact.
‘Their second goal killed us and we never got back into it after that,’ said Bradbury.
‘In the end we were playing a bit like them – hitting long balls which their defenders dealt with easily.
‘We nowhere near enough threatened their goalkeeper.
‘But you have to give them credit for the way they kept us at bay.
‘Gosport proved a hard team to play against and you could see how they have been keeping clean sheets recently.
‘The final 10 minutes saw us playing off scraps and that was something we didn’t want to do.
‘It was desperation.’
If the Hawks are to launch a bid for the end of season Skrill South play-off places, they can’t afford to let their Trophy failure play on their minds.
The Hawks are 15 points adrift of fifth-placed Weston-Super-Mare but have 10 games in hand.
Taking three points from their Sussex visitors will help boost spirits in the camp.
‘We are all deflated but have to put things behind us and focus on our next game ,’ said Bradbury.