Stock backs Hawks to weather storm
Brian Stock is concerned the Hawks could find themselves playing catch-up at the start of their return to National League South.
The Westleigh Park outfit, who won the Ryman League last term, play their first game back in the competition at Chippenham Town next weekend.
It is a tough start at the home of last season’s Southern League premier division champions.
And it is made all the more difficult by the Hawks’ pre-season injury crisis.
Manager Lee Bradbury’s preparations have been severely disrupted by the absence of six key players.
These include the experienced Stock, who suffered cracked ribs in the friendly against Pompey.
The Hawks captain admits it is a far from ideal.
‘It is frustrating for all concerned,’ said Stock.
‘You miss it if you don’t do your pre-season and it is a nightmare for the players and manager.
‘I am gutted I am not fit at the moment and it is one of those injuries I can’t do anything about.
‘Hopefully I will be able to resume training in a couple of weeks.
‘From the manager’s point of view, he needs everybody fit so he has got competition for places. We have to make sure we don’t rush people back too early – but in a few weeks we could have everyone back.
‘We have got intelligent players in the squad and might have to tweak a few things at the start.
‘We might be playing catch-up on fitness levels in some areas but I am confident we will be fine.’
Bradbury is hoping to alleviate some of the problems by taking Pompey youngster Theo Widdrington on loan.
The first-year professional has impressed in the two friendlies he has played.
In the 4-3 win at Horndean in midweek, he started the move for the first goal and smashed in a terrific long-range shot for the second.
The manager’s main concern, however, is the way his defence has leaked goals in their past two of games – five against Sutton United and three at Horndean.
Some have been the result of very sloppy defending.
Bradbury knows if they don’t tighten up at the back Chippenham could have a field day.
The continued absence of Jordan Rose and Dan Strugnell is a major worry.
In midfield, Mike Carter made a welcome return at Horndean but faces a race against time to be match fit for the first league game.
Wes Fogden looks lively playing in a wide role but striker Alfie Rutherford not looked at his best during pre-season.
Matt Tubbs is looking stronger and Bradbury is likely to start with him and target man Jason Prior at Chippenham.