Taylor red card proves so costly as Hawks’ National League South promotion dream is ended by Dartford

HAWKS’ dream of promotion back to the top tier of English non-league football is over.

By Simon Carter
Saturday, 25th July 2020, 6:32 pm
Updated Saturday, 25th July 2020, 6:32 pm
Josh Taylor, left, was sent off as Hawks suffered a 2-1 home National League South play-off semi-final loss to Dartford. Photo by Dave Haines.
Josh Taylor, left, was sent off as Hawks suffered a 2-1 home National League South play-off semi-final loss to Dartford. Photo by Dave Haines.

They let slip a half-time lead to lose 2-1 to Dartford in the semi-final of the National League South play-offs at a near deserted and rainswept Westleigh Park.

The game turned three minutes into time added on at the end of the first half when home midfielder Josh Taylor was sent off.

The midfielder - who had been one of his side’s best players - was shown a straight red card for lashing out at Darts striker Elliot Romain in a midfield tussle.

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Though Taylor did not make contact, referee Tom Bishop deemed it violent conduct and the complexion of the match changed in an instant.

Hawks - playing their first competitive game for 133 days - were leading at the time courtesy of top scorer Jonah Ayunga’s 13th minute effort - his 18th league goal of the season.

Skipper Danny Kedwell flicked on a long Taylor throw and Ayunga forced a loose ball home at the far post from virtually on the line.

Dartford, who had finished 11 points behind Hawks in the 2019/20 South table, had hardly threatened in the opening half.

Hawks boss Paul Doswell reacted to Taylor’s moment of madness by making a triple half-time substitution.

Kedwell was sacrificed with Ayunga playing on his own up front, while ex-Horndean right back Benny Read and attacking midfielder Roarie Deacon - playing on his second game since the end of September - were also taken off.

Midfield trio Andy Drury, Chris Paul and Bedsente Gomis were all sent on, with Nicky Bailey replacing Read at right back.

Darts boss Steve King made two changes at half-time, and it was one of his subs - left winger Ky Marsh-Brown - who was to have the biggest impact.

It was Marsh-Brown who provided the assist for striker Darren McQueen to level just before the hour mark, firing a low shot past Ross Worner - virtually the first shot the visitors had got on target.

Marsh-Brown was then brought down by Paul nine minutes later for a spot-kick which McQueen - once signed by Doswell when he was boss at Sutton - confidently dispatched into the top corner.

Ayunga should have taken the tie into a penalty shoot-out in time added on, but he headed wide from inside the six-yard box.

King has now guided four different clubs to the South division play-off final since 2010 - Dartford following in Farnborough, Whitehawk and Welling’s footsteps. The former Lewes boss - who won the South title with Lewes in 2007/08 - has lost all three finals so far.

Sadly for Doswell, he has now suffered six successive play-off disappointments - having previously lost five in a row with Sutton.