Brave Hawks earn vital Chelmsford win

JJ Hooper. 'Picture: Mick Young
JJ Hooper. 'Picture: Mick Young
  • JJ Hooper scores vital winner to keep Hawks in play-off contention
  • Ed Harris sent off after an early scuffle
  • Bradbury delighted with team’s resilience
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Lee Bradbury praised the Hawk’s desire as they stayed firmly in the Vanarama Conference South play-off chase with a 1-0 win at Chelmsford City.

A terrific first-half strike by JJ Hooper proved enough to earn the visitors three priceless points at a windswept Melbourne Road.

This is a huge win for us at this stage under the trickiest of circumstances

Lee Bradbury

Both teams finished with 10 men after Ed Harris and Mark Haines were sent off for a scuffle in the opening quarter of an hour.

On a day when things could easily have gone wrong, Bradbury witnessed his team put in another battling performance.

The vital win keeps the Hawks in the play-off frame and three points ahead of fifth-placed Gosport Borough.

Bradbury was delighted with his team’s response to going a man down.

‘This is a huge win for us at this stage under the trickiest of circumstances,’ said manager Bradbury.

‘The strong wind and hard bobbly pitch made it difficult to get the ball down and play our football.

‘Then we had to reshuffle when we had a player sent off and lost JJ Hooper to injury.

‘I am pretty pleased with the way we responded.

‘The players showed great desire and determination not to let it affect them.

‘After getting into the lead, we had to defend bravely against the wind in the second half, and I thought we did that well.

‘We showed that we can play football and also mix our game up when necessary.’

The gale-force wind blowing straight down the pitch was a massive factor from the start, making it difficult for both teams to find any cohesion.

The Hawks made one change to their starting line-up.

Hooper replaced the injured Bradley Bubb up front.

AFC Bournemouth pair Harry Cornick and Josh Carmichael, who were both signed on loan before the weekend, were included among the substitutes.

The game got off to a quiet start but exploded into life in the 15th minute when Harris and Haines got their marching orders after grappling on the ground.

The Clarets player later claimed Harris had bitten him but Bradbury dismissed the idea.

‘Their player had ours in a head lock and wrestled him to the ground,’ said Bradbury.

‘All Ed (Harris) did was push him away as he got back up and I don’t see what he did wrong.

‘I asked him out straight if he had bitten him and he totally denied it.

‘They couldn’t produce any evidence afterwards of any bitemarks.’

It was the Hawks who grabbed the initiative when Hooper put them in front with a crisp 24th-minute volley.

Unfortunately soon after, the 
goalscorer limped out of the action and had to be replaced by Shamir Mullings.

After the break the visitors showed their defensive qualities as the home side used the wind to launch the ball into their area.

The Hawks remained resolute and should have even added to their lead when Ben Swallow missed an open goal near the end.

‘It was an afternoon for rolling up the sleeves and I felt we did that,’ said Bradbury.

‘I am now looking to catch the teams above us in the last four games.’

Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Harris, Dutton, Cummings, Donnelly (Carmichael 59), Stock, Huggins, Swallow, Wright (Cornick 59), Hooper (Mullings 34).

Att: 660