The next generation of Hawks players are chasing glory on three separate fronts as they attempt to push their way into Lee Bradbury’s future first-team plans.
The club’s Academy side travel to the north east today for the semi-final of the National Conference Youth Cup, after an impressive run to the last four of the competition.
We’ve got some important games coming up but it’s up to the lads to finish the season stronglyNeil Tomlinson
There they will face Gateshead with the aim of booking a place in the end-of-season finale and moving another step closer to a treble.
The South Downs College-based side are currently 10 points clear in the Football Conference Youth Alliance division with a handful of games remaining and have already booked their place in the Hampshire Cup final.
Manager Neil Tomlinson is keen for his players to put the finishing touches to their outstanding campaign – and he believes some of his charges will soon be ready for a place in Bradbury’s senior squad.
Tomlinson said: ‘We’ve done very well this season so far.
‘We’ve had 28 games and only lost once in the league and once in the FA Youth Cup.
‘We’re 10 points clear in the league and we’ve got six games left, but we haven’t won anything yet.
‘We’ve still got a couple of the bigger teams to play and it’s going to be a very tough trip to Gateshead.
‘We’ve had this link with the club (Hawks) for 11 years but it’s closer than ever and I think it shows.
‘Lee Bradbury is very keen on working with the young players so it has come together for us nicely.
‘It’s good for him to bring good young players through but it’s also great for us as our players see that tangible link towards the first team.’
With opponents normally made up of fellow Conference sides and teams linked to professional clubs’ community departments, the Hawks youngsters are all studying BTecs at South Downs.
In recent times, Harry Wedlake and Charlie Searle have stepped up to the first team, while Bradbury opted to use almost the entire Academy side in the Portsmouth Senior Cup campaign.
Tomlinson added: ‘Lee used 10 of our players in the Portsmouth Senior Cup for the first team.
‘We’ve never had that sort of close relationship in the past.
‘Him and Shaun Gale (assistant manager) have been putting on training sessions for us and Lee knows the name of every player.
‘Harry and Charlie have come through and we are hoping there might be a few more who can follow them.’
After coming through the first three rounds of the Conference League Cup with ease against West Ham Blues (7-1), Watford Hertswood (5-2) and Hampton & Richmond (4-0), the Hawks edged a tight tussle 2-1 at Grays Athletic in the last 16 of the competition.
But their quarter-final clash with Southampton Sparsholt turned into an epic as they earned their place in the last four thanks to a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory after a 1-1 draw.
And they face the same opponents again in their forthcoming Hampshire Cup final.
‘We’ve got some important games coming up but it’s up to the lads to finish the season strongly,’ said Tomlinson.
‘It’s a big game at Gateshead but the lads are really up for it.’