Rooney taken to hospital as makeshift Hawks defence impress in National League South stalemate against Hemel Hempstead

Paul Rooney’s miserable festive period continued today as he was taken to hospital after being injured during Hawks’ 0-0 National League stalemate with Hemel Hempstead at Westleigh Park.

By Simon Carter
Tuesday, 28th December 2021, 7:03 pm
Paul Rooney leaves the pitch before half-time accompanied by Hawks physio Jake Travis. Picture: Dave Haines)
Paul Rooney leaves the pitch before half-time accompanied by Hawks physio Jake Travis. Picture: Dave Haines)

The centre half had been sent off after just five minutes of the 8-0 Boxing Day mauling at Dorking Wanderers - his second red card of the season.

Against Hemel, he was forced off just before half-time and taken to hospital with what boss Paul Doswell fears could be a detached retina.

A defensive reshuffle saw right wing back Josh Passley moved into a back three alongside skipper Joe Oastler and Jake McCarthy with Benny Read replacing Passley on the right side.

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Tommy Wright gets past the challenge of Hemel's Sam Mantom. Picture: Dave Haines.

McCarthy was one of two big positional changes Doswell made as Hawks attempted to put their Dorking humiliation behind them.

The club’s 10-goal top scorer was switched to the right side of a back three as Hawks reverted to a 3-5-2 system.

Elsewhere, with midfielder Oscar Gobern injured, striker Tommy Wright was moved into a central three alongside Billy Clifford and Jake Andrews and behind central striker Alex Wall, preferred up front to Scott Rendell, and James Roberts.

It was only Wall’s fourth start for Hawks, his first since October 2 and his first in the league. He unsurprisingly looked short of match fitness and was replaced by Scott Rendell just before the hour mark.

Benny Read replaced Paul Rooney just before half-time. Picture: Dave Haines

‘It was important we didn’t lose and it was important we kept a clean sheet,’ said Doswell of a game where there were very few clear chances at either end. The effort levels were certainly high, but the entertainment rating was very low for a Bank Holiday crowd of 972.

‘We showed good energy against a side that didn’t play on Boxing Day and had won their last five away games. That’s important to know.

‘I was concerned about our energy levels having played virtually the whole game on Boxing Day with 10 men.

‘We didn’t create much but we created enough. The important thing, though, was to show our face.

Hawks striker Scott Rendell, left. Picture: Dave Haines)

‘We defended well with a makeshift back three and restricted them to just a few half chances.

‘Will Mannion only really had one save to make from Chris Paul late on, and you’d expect him to make it.

‘You’re always disappointed when you can’t find a winner, but the important thing today was not to lose.

‘It’s a little building block.’

Alex Wall is held by a Hemel defender as Joe Oastler contests an aerial challenge. Picture: Dave Haines

‘We ended up with a back three containing just one normal centre half (Joe Oastler) but I thought Josh Passley and Jake McCarthy did well.

‘You will see better games, you will see more exciting games, but it was important we showed our face and I felt we did that.

‘The best time to judge this squad is in April. We’re eighth and we’ve got 22 games to go, but we do need better luck with injuries. We’ve had an horrendous run and we’ve got another one today (Rooney).

‘It’s been a testing time, it hasn’t been easy. But football’s never been easy. If you want an easy life, don’t get involved in football.’

Interviewed immediately after the Dorking debacle, Doswell said he wanted his squad to show they had ‘b*******’ against Hemel. He was happy with the reaction he got.

‘To get a clean sheet having played twice in three days, showing the energy levels we did, showed they have b*******. Hemel have won five away games in a row and don’t concede many goals, and they’ve done that for a reason,’ the manager said.

Doswell switched to a back three again, for the first time in a few weeks, to match Hemel’s 3-5-2 formation.

‘Jake and Paul Rooney on either side can bring the ball out and Joe Oastler in the middle is the organiser.

‘I put Tommy Wright in a central three to try and give us more legs, which we had lacked on Boxing Day, though I was concerned that in playing Tommy, Billy Clifford and Jake Andrews we lacked any ‘enforcer’. That was a gamble.

‘I've played Tommy in that role at Sutton, I knew he would work his socks off.

‘Alex Wall hasn’t played for 10 weeks and if I’m being honest he looked a long way off.

‘But you have to try and give him minutes, otherwise you’re looking at 13 or 14 weeks without playing.

‘Both Oscar and Jamie Collins would have struggled to play two games in three days.’

Even without his injury, Rooney wouldn’t have featured in next Sunday’s Westleigh Park rematch with Dorking – he has been handed a two-game ban for his Boxing Day red.