Bradbury hails ‘strong’ Hawks as Prior stars

Theo Lewis opened the scoring for the Hawks against Merstham. Picture: Habibur Rahman (170289-50)
Theo Lewis opened the scoring for the Hawks against Merstham. Picture: Habibur Rahman (170289-50)
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Lee Bradbury toasted a ‘big win’ as the Hawks’ Ryman League premier division title bid gathered pace.

The Westleigh Park outfit claimed a 3-0 home victory over Merstham – to cut the gap to leaders Bognor to two points.

The Hawks, who could go top with a win at Tonbridge Angels tomorrow night, have lost just two of their past 12 league fixtures – and have games in hand on the Rocks.

Theo Lewis opened the scoring on Saturday before a Jason Prior double finished the job.

Bradbury said: ‘It was a big win for us and a really good all-round performance. It was a strong display.

‘We had to stay patient, particularly with the strong wind playing its part in the first half.

‘Merstham had a bit of possession but we made sure we stayed in the game.

‘We moved the ball quickly and were unlucky not to score a couple of goals, hitting the post a couple of times.

‘When we hit the woodwork again at the start of the second half, I started to think it wasn’t going to be our day again.

‘The first goal was always going to be important and once we went in front we went from strength to strength.

‘We moved the ball with purpose and went on to create further opportunities.’

Ryan Woodford, Brian Stock and Alfie Rutherford all hit the post before the Hawks finally made the breakthrough.

On 55 minutes, Prior refused to give up on a deep cross that looked like it was going out of play.

The striker managed to turn the ball back into the danger area where Lewis made a timely run and neatly tucked the ball into the net at the near post.

From that point onwards the home side always looked in charge.

Prior was looking back to his physical best up front and he made another big impact in the 68th minute.

His powerful burst into the area ended with a scything challenge from Marc Okoye.

The Merstham defender was sent off for the second bookable offence and Prior converted the spot-kick.

The former Rocks striker then put the icing on the cake nine minutes before the full-time whistle – thumping home a far-post header to seal the points.

Bradbury added: ‘I’m really pleased for Jason because he has not been getting many opportunities lately.

‘He showed great anticipation to set up the first goal.

‘Then he took both his goals well to give us the result we deserved.

‘We are on a good little run at the moment and it is important we keep it going.

‘The challenge is to try to remain unbeaten until the end of the season.

‘If we do that we will give ourselves an excellent chance.’

Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Woodford, Harris, Williams, Stock (Fogden, 65min), Lewis, Carter (Hayter, 80min), Prior, Rutherford (Swallow, 65min), Tarbuck. Attendance: 721