The Hawks will have mixed feelings about the result today, as they failed to beat a team who went into the match seven places below them, but will be relieved that they managed to salvage a point in the dying minutes when it looked like they would suffer a disappointing defeat. The Hawks opted for a change in formation, with George Barker and Ben Swallow coming into the team to allow Bradbury to play a 4-4-2 formation. Andreas Robinson and James Hayter found themselves dropped to the bench as the hosts moved away from the 3-5-2 system they have used in the last few matches, most recently in the Boxing Day draw with Bognor Regis Town. The Hawks needed to win the match in order to keep up the pressure on the top of the league and ensure they took a good points return from their games in hand over Needham Market.
The match started with a good chance for the hosts, with Swallow and Barker combining superbly on the right to allow Swallow to shoot at goal, but his effort was weak and was no problem for Rob Tolfrey in the Kingstonian goal. The build-up to the chance saw the Hawks’ two wingers exchange several one touch passes to allow Swallow some space in the box, but his effort was tame and the ‘keeper was able to get down and push it away. The hosts seemed unable to push on from their fast start and Kingstonian dominated most of the rest of the first half. Rory Williams found himself being beaten unusually easily at left-back for the Hawks, as Youssef Bamba caused him trouble with his pace and quick feet. On several occasions Bamba was able to get to the by-line and put dangerous crosses into the Hawks’ box but all were dealt with by the defence. The away pressure finally paid dividends when Lee Molyneaux failed to clear Bamba’s cross and the loose ball was spectacularly arrowed into the top corner of Ryan Young’s goal by Joe Turner. The impressive away following were delighted, and even more so when the first half finished without further incident.
The Hawks’ continued their flat performance after the break, being unable to create clear-cut chances despite their efforts. The away side continued to pose problems with their wide play, and both wingers proved more than a match for Havant’s full-backs. Bamba almost scored a wonderful goal of his own when he took the ball from the halfway line and dribbled past Williams and a host of other players before seeing his shot blocked from the edge of the penalty area. Turner also came close to grabbing his second when he turned Lee Molyneaux inside out – leaving him helpless on the floor – but was unable to get a shot away from inside the box. Molyneaux seemed off the pace from the start, struggling to find accuracy with his passes and failing to assert his usual aerial dominance, so there was little surprise when he made way for Ed Harris just shy of the hour mark in a double change which also saw Matt Patterson replace George Barker. The change saw Jason Prior drop into a slightly deeper position as the Hawks tried to get as many balls into the area as possible with their three strikers.
However, although the performance did perk up after the changes, the Hawks were still unable to get a clear sight of goal, with the closest they came being a long-range effort by Brian Stock which was well blocked on the edge of the box. As the game went on the hosts put more and more pressure on their opponents, with crosses coming in from both sides. However, only one of these crosses was met by a solid attempt on goal as Jason Prior managed to work the goalkeeper with a header. The ex-Bognor man could hardly have done more, as Williams’ cross was behind him but he managed to crane his neck and send the ball towards the top corner, where Tolfrey had to push the ball behind for a corner. The balls kept coming into the box, and Patterson was unable to keep his header on target, while Swallow couldn’t keep his own header down when the ball found him on the edge of the area. With seven minutes to go James Hayter came on to replace the ineffectual Jason Prior as the Hawks looked for an equaliser. The visitors had been engaging in a fair amount of time wasting over the course of the second half, which saw five minutes added on at the end. And in the last of those added minutes the hosts finally scored. Swallow put yet another cross into the box, which Kingstonian failed to clear, before Matt Patterson pounced on the loose ball and fired it into the top corner from around the penalty spot. The full-time whistle blew straight after the visitors restarted the game, and the late goal made what was, ultimately, a disappointing result seem like a great point.
The old football cliché ‘when you can’t win, don’t lose’ comes to mind when considering the match today. In truth it was a very below-par performance from start to finish by the Hawks and they can consider themselves very lucky not to have lost the match. Having said that, it is important that they were able to get something from the match despite not playing well in order to keep the pressure on their promotion rivals. The team just weren’t able to get going today and didn’t look lively. This was mainly down to the poor performances of the full-backs who are normally so consistent, as well as a lack of creativity from Swallow and Barker. I think it is fair to attribute the performance to a bad day at the office, as too many key player failed to turn up, so from that point of view the result doesn’t seem so bad. It is vital that the Hawks are back on form for the visit of Wingate & Finchley on Monday or as anything less than five points from the three matches over Christmas will have to go down as a failure.
Ryan Young: 6 – Had no chance for the goal and very little to do apart from that.
Dan Strugnell: 5 – Failed to contain Turner on the wing and offered little going forward.
Lee Molyneaux*: 4 – Had a shocker and was lucky not to be further embarrassed before being substituted.
Ryan Woodford: 7 – A typically consistent performance from the defender.
Rory Williams: 5 – Delivery into the box was poor and was dominated by Bamba.
George Barker**: 5 – Overwhelmingly right-footed which is unhelpful when playing on the left wing.
Brian Stock: 6 – A couple of nice passes but was also beaten too easily on several occasions.
Theo Lewis: 7 – Struggled to make any real impact but kept on running as always.
Ben Swallow: 5 – Failed to make his usual impact and was forced back too often.
Jason Prior***: 6 – Was unlucky not to score from a header but made little impact otherwise.
Alfie Rutherford: 7 – A committed and hard working performance but didn’t get much luck.
Ed Harris*: 7 – Defence seemed more solid after he came on.
Matt Patterson**: 7 – Anonymous but popped up in the right place to score.
James Hayter***: 6 – Had very little time on the pitch but I don’t remember him touching the ball.