Skipper Joe Oastler nets twice as Hawks continue National League South resurgence with biggest league win since August 2019 against Hungerford Town

Hawks are now just two points adrift of the National League South play-off zone after romping to the second best victory of Paul Doswell’s Westleigh Park reign.

By Simon Carter
Wednesday, 16th March 2022, 10:57 pm
Manny Duku heads Hawks' second goal against Hungerford Town. Picture by Dave Haines
Manny Duku heads Hawks' second goal against Hungerford Town. Picture by Dave Haines

A 4-0 win over Hungerford Town tonight enabled them to leapfrog their visitors into the top 10 and continue recent momentum.

Hawks, having gone nine league games without a win, have now picked up 13 points out of a possible 15 to rekindle promotion hopes. And there’s still a quarter of the season – 10 matches – left.

First half goals from strikers Stefan Payne and Manny Duku gave the hosts a deserved half-time advantage.

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Manny Duku celebrates after scoring Hawks' second goal. Picture by Dave Haines

They were helped when Hungerford keeper Luke Cairney was forced off on 58 minutes after lengthy treatment following a freak injury - he had received a finger in the eye following a collision with Payne.

Without a recognised keeper on the bench, Hungerford centre half Keith Emmerson donned the gloves instead.

Hawks created a host of chances after that, but the only two goals came from defender and captain Joe Oastler.

Twice he went up for set pieces and twice he produced finishes that any striker would have been proud of as Hawks strolled to their highest league win of a rollercoaster campaign. Indeed, it was their best NLS success since Dorking were hammered 6-0 in the first few weeks of Doswell’s opening season in August 2019.

Joe Oastler scores his second goal against Hungerford. Picture by Dave Haines.

Doswell made two changes from the side that had claimed an impressive 1-0 weekend win at Dulwich Hamlet.

Ross Worner had shaken off a neck injury to replace Charlie Searle in goal, while midfielder Jake McCarthy had recovered from sickness. He came in for the luckless Paul Rooney, who was feeling groggy after suffering a head injury during the previous day’s training session.

Duku thought he had opened the scoring on 19 minutes, heading in a Billy Clifford free-kick, but a linesman’s flag ruled it out.

With Hawks looking full of energy going forward, the breakthrough arrived just after the half-hour mark. Tommy Wright ran from inside his own half before passing to Payne, whose low dipping shot deceived Cairney.

Joe Oastler (middle) celebrates his second goal against Hungerford. Picture by Dave Haines.

Worner denied Hungerford’s 21-goal Ryan Seager as he looked to take the ball around the keeper, before Hawks scored a superb second goal on 34 minutes.

Left back Joe Newton swung in a delicious curling cross that Duku - playing with a bandage after suffering a head wound against Chelmsford a fortnight earlier - rose imperiously at the back post to nod in.

Hungerford had their moments going forward, notably through the pacy Sol Wanjau-Smith, but Hawks - boosted by energy levels so much higher than in pre-Christmas home games - were worthy of their interval lead.

Into the second half and Hawks were still in control when Cairney was forced off just before the hour mark, with ex-Poole and Winchester defender Emmerson taking over in goal.

It took eight minutes for Hawks to get a shot in, but when it arrived it was goal number three. From a short corner routine, Wright teased a cross to the far post which wasn’t cleared and Oastler thumped in a low shot.

McCarthy fashioned a clear shooting chance on 74 minutes, but fired straight at Emmerson, before sub Jake Andrews somehow headed over from within the six-yard box at the back post.

Oastler struck again on 76 minutes, with an even better strike than his first goal - meeting Andrews’ curling free-kick at the far post with a first-time volley that gave Emmerson no chance.

Hawks wasted further chances to get their goal difference back into a positive figure - they had started the game at minus five - with Emmerson saving from Payne and Wright.

The visitors played the final few minutes with just 10 men when, after using all three subs, midfielder Jake Evans limped off injured.

During that time, Wright should have made it five but sidefooted a good chance well wide.

Still, a 4-0 win sets Hawks up nicely for this weekend’s trip to third-placed Dartford, who possess the division’s last remaining unbeaten home record.

The only downside tonight was the crowd figure - just 758. But if Hawks keep on winning, and building even more momentum, surely four-figure gates will be recorded at Westleigh Park as a crazy season reaches its climax.

Hawks: Worner, Passley (Read, 68), Newton, Oastler, Shroll, McCarthy, Clifford, Wright, Duku (Andrews, 73), Wall (Rendell), Payne.

Hungerford: Cairney (Berry-Hargreaves, 58), McGrory, Emmerson, Jones, Burley, Evans, Smith (Sheaf, 71 mins), Ram, Wanjau-Smith (Herbert, 84 mins), Seager, Bailey.

Attendance: 758