Hawks pay price for poor first-half showing

Ben Wright. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Ben Wright. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves
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The Hawks’ bid to make the Vanarama Conference South play-offs continues to blow hot and cold after they were beaten by Weston-super-Mare.

After toppling league-leaders Boreham Wood last week, they were brought back down to earth with a 2-1 defeat at the Woodspring Stadium on Saturday.

A disappointed Lee Bradbury wants greater consistency from his team as they head into the final eight games.

‘We can’t afford to be inconsistent as individuals or as a team,’ said the Hawks boss.

‘For 15 minutes Weston didn’t touch the ball but then their first goal rocked us back on our heels.

‘The next half-hour was the worst we have played for a long time.

‘We have to show more character than that.

‘They scored again and we could easily have found ourselves three goals down at the break.

‘It needed a few choice words at half-time to try to get the best from my players.’

After making a bright start, the visitors had only themselves to blame for going behind to two Jamie Lucas strikes.

Dan Strugnell’s error at the back led to the opening goal after 14 minutes.

And then Dayle Grubb’s defence-splitting ball sent Lucas through once again.

Bradley Bubb hit the crossbar with an early effort but the Hawks’ game was riddled with mistakes.

‘We gave the ball away too much and our decision-making was very poor,’ said Bradbury.

‘Both their goals were soft from our point of view.

‘After starting positively we rested on our laurels and failed to work hard enough for long enough.

‘They cut out a poor Dan Strugnell pass for the first and we gave their striker too much time and space for their second.’

Bradbury changed things early in the second half by sending on strikers Ben Wright and Shamir Mullings in place of Ben Swallow and Josh Huggins.

The manager went for broke by bringing four strikers on to the pitch and it almost worked.

Wright gave the Hawks a lifeline on 62 minutes when his deflected shot reduced the arrears.

From that point on, they launched wave after wave of attacks.

But despite laying seige to the home goal in the closing stages, a combination of the woodwork and desperate defending kept them out.

JJ Hooper twice hit the frame of the goal, while Joe McClellan cleared off the line for the hosts right at the death to deny the Hawks a point.

Bradbury said: ‘We upped our tempo and had 80 per cent of the possession in the second half.

‘Three times we hit the woodwork and there were a number of goalmouth scrambles but it just wouldn’t go in for us.

‘But we shouldn’t have got ourselves into that position in the first place.’

The Hawks remain one spot outside the play-offs – behind fifth-placed Gosport Borough on goal difference.

Having missed out on the final day of last season, Bradbury knows his team will need to keep their nerve in the final weeks.

‘There will be plenty of twists and turns between now and the end of the season,’ said the Westleigh Park manager.

‘We have to make sure that we are consistent in what are eight cup finals for us.’

HAWKS: Young, Strugnell, Cummings, Stock, Woodford, Harris, Swallow (Wright, 59min), Donnelly (Awford, 75min), Hooper, Bubb, Huggins (Mullings, 59min)