Ritchie slams Hawks players

Stuart Ritchie
Stuart Ritchie
Stephane Bombelenga netted the leveller. Picture: Keith Woodland

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Hawks manager Stuart Ritchie slammed his players after their embarrassing 1-0 FA Cup exit at the hands of Southern League South & West minnows North Leigh.

It was an excruciating afternoon for the Blue Square Bet South visitors who were out-fought and out-played for most of the tie.

A 65th-minute Kieran Sanders goal sent the Hawks crashing out and it was a win the home side fully deserved for their display on the day.

Instead of battling and scrapping for survival Ritchie’s side virtually ran up the white flag and went out with a whimper.

Ritchie regarded the manner of the defeat as unforgiveable.

‘That was poor and I’m not happy,’ said the Hawks boss.

‘I am lost for words because I am not used to having a team that lacks heart and determination to win games.

‘Plain and simple – North Leigh wanted it more than we did. I can’t defend our performance.

‘We were not brave enough when it mattered and got what we deserved.’

The ingredients for an upset were there from the start – a basic ground in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside, a sloping pitch and hosts riding high in confidence from an excellent start in the league.

But that was nothing the Hawks didn’t already know and it was obvious a battling performance was needed.

True, the visitors’ cause wasn’t helped by the loss of winger Christian Nanetti in the warm-up and defender Chris Arthur early in the first half, both to injury.

Ritchie insisted, though, there were no excuses.

Playing up the slope in the first half, the Hawks managed to keep North Leigh and particularly their dangerous striker Sanders at bay.

The warning signs were there though with the home side quicker to the second ball and creating the lions share of the chances.

Playing down the slope in the second half the Hawks were expected to take charge – but they didn’t make it happen. They paid the price for that lethargy in the 65th minute when Sanders delivered the knockout blow.

Paul Hinshelwood gave the ball away badly midway inside his own half and North Leigh quickly exploited the space down the right.

When the ball reached Sanders inside the area he was allowed to turn and plant his low shot past the diving Clark Masters.

The Hawks’ response proved far too frantic, desperate and ultimately in vain.

‘There are individuals who have been at this club for a while who are not performing and are not doing the business,’ said Ritchie.

‘We need to look at that deeply and do something about it.

‘At the moment, we lack the passion and impetus to win games.’

The Hawks have failed in their bid to get international clearance to sign former Celtic midfielder Richie Towell.

But the move could be resurrected in January.

Hawks: Masters 7; Hinshelwood 5, Arthur (Newton 16mins – 6), Hutchinson 6, Harris 6, Page 6, Ramsey 5 (Moss 80mins), Bailey 5, Jones 5 (Kabba 63mins – 5), Palmer 6, Taggart 7.