Lee Bradbury slammed the Westleigh Park pitch after the Hawks’ FA Trophy exit and revealed fears it might derail his teams play-off ambitions.
The surface was a key factor in the side’s gruelling 1-0 defeat at the hands of Vanarama Conference Premier Dover Athletic.
Although it had been covered for the best part of a week and passed an early morning pitch inspection, parts of the Martin Road end were heavily sanded.
Once the game started that area of the pitch cut up badly making it even more difficult.
Every pass and shot had to be dug out of the glue-pot surface and it also played a major part in the winning goal.
‘Something needs to be done about our pitch,’ said Bradbury.
‘It is the same for both teams but it is impossible to play our passing style of football on it.
‘We have gone from having one of the best pitches in the league in the opening months of the season to possibly the worst.
‘Although I don’t really want to, we may have to change our style of play at times to mix and match a bit more.
‘Our pitch cost us last season when we had so many games called off and ended up playing three or four games a week for the final couple of months.
‘We were so tired at the end of it, we missed out.
‘I don’t want that to happen again.’
The Conference South Hawks matched their visitors for much of Saturday’s tie.
But one mistake – just four minutes before the full-time whistle – cost them dear.
In normal conditions, full-back Dan Strugnell would have made an easy pass back to his goalkeeper Ryan Young.
But with the surface so unpredictable, he tried to turn and clear up the line.
That proved decisive when his clearance was blocked and Dover crossed into the area for substitute Ricky Modeste to convert from close range.
It was rough justice on the Hawks, who deserved at least a replay for their endeavours in tough conditions.
‘I feel sorry for my players because they worked hard and matched them stride for stride,’ said Bradbury.
‘We felt at half-time the game could be decided by one mistake and unfortunately we were the ones to make it.
‘On the day we were probably the better side and our keeper Ryan Young hardly had a save to make.
‘We had the better chances but failed to put them away and were caught by a sucker-punch in the end.
‘You have to take your chances against a team like Dover otherwise they will punish you.’
Scott Donnelly dinked a shot against the outside of the post in the first half but Bradley Bubb was guilty of a poor miss after the break.
He latched onto an awful back pass to go clear but failed to get his shot past the advancing Dover goalkeeper.
It proved to be a costly miss in the final reckoning.
Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Cummings, Stock, Dutton (Ryan, 72min), Harris, Ciardini, Donnelly, Wright (Mullings, 72min), Bubb (Hooper, 72min), Huggins