Coming off the back of a 4-0 mauling of East Grinstead and with 3 new signings all starting, confidence would of been high as Shaun Saunders’ Hawks flew to Town but in the end, experience overcame youth.
It was the Hawks who made the faster start and almost opened the scoring after just 4 minutes. Charlie Harris was given time to send a cross in and former Hillian Alfie Rogers crashed a header against the foot of Will Huffer’s post. The Hill backline had a big physical presence to deal with in Khris Oti but it probably wasn’t wise to present him with openings, Lewis Taylor playing a sloppy ball back which Oti latched onto but he dragged his effort well wide of the goal. Hawks made all the early running here, Tommy Brewer snapped into a tackle and stopped debutant Henry Burnett in his stride, the ball broke to Rogers who fired at goal but it was comfortable for the HuffMan. Once again Hawks won the ball back in midfield and broke quickly, Oti this time turned provider whipping a cross to the far post which came to Hillian title winner, Rob O’Toole. He had time to turn and looked to rifle in at Huffer’s near post but it took a vital deflection to take it wide. The Hillians first real chance came after half an hour. Martyn Box whipped a free kick in and debutant Tunji Obembe rose highest but he headed straight at another ex Hillian, Sam Freeman. Oti was proving a real handful to deal with and came close again as the half drew to a close. Luke Robinson crossed from the left and Oti rose highest but saw his header go just wide of the post. When you’re at the wrong end of the table, you sometimes need a bit of luck and Hill almost got it. Kai Brown heaved a cross in looking for the Hitman but it crashed back off Sam Freeman’s crossbar but no Green and Black was on hand to nod home the rebound. As the halftime whistled beckoned, quite how Alfie Rogers didn’t haunt his former club, only he will know. It was a delightful Hawks move, with O’Toole chesting it down for Charlie Harris who curled a gorgeous ball which gave Rogers a tap in… except from 4 yards, Rogers tapped over. A huge let off to end the half for the Hillians.
Chances were few and far between in the first 45 for Hill but they had a glorious one to start the second half. Henry Burnett played a glorious ball over the top of the Hawks defence which Kai Brown latched onto, Sam Freeman rushed out and closed the angle down and made an important point blank stop with another former Hillian, Nathan Cooper then clearing it off the line. That chance was even more costly as just a minute later, the Hawks hit the front. Yes you guessed it, yet another ex Hill man was involved as Leon Moore fed the ball into Khris Oti. Oti chested it down, spun onto his left and hammered a rocket which Will Huffer could only hear whizz past his ear and nestle into the upper echelons to delight the travelling Hawk masses. The Hawks had their wings up now and smelt blood. Alfie Rogers was desperate to make amends and fired a bending effort from 25 yards which Huffer had to be at full stretch to tip around the post and keep Hill in it. Charlie Harris had a dangerous free kick on the edge of the area which he fired straight at Huffer as the Hill struggled to gain any momentum offensively. A chance did fall the Hillians way which wasn’t far from being the equaliser. MOTM Kieran Rowe found former Hawks hero Connor Tighe with space in the box, Tighe unleashed a half volley but it whistled just wide of Freeman’s post. Whitehawk had one final chance to wrap it up, substitute Marvin Herschel broke down the right, beat Huffer but his effort dribbled across the face of goal and out but Oti’s stunner was enough for the visitors.
A close affair decided by a moment of magic, Hawks are a strong outfit with play off ambitions and the Hillians pushed them all the way. Plenty of positives for Matt Longhurst to build on.
Not long to wait for our next game, we welcome Cray Valley Paper Mills to Paradise on Tuesday evening, 7:30 KO.