Town back above the dotted line
By Ken Brazier
Whitehawk 1 Enfield Town 3
A gritty performance in East Sussex on Saturday levered Town back into the Ryman Premier play-off zone for the first time since early January. Their fate is now back in their own hands with eight league games remaining writes John Dolan
There were a couple of changes to the starting line up, with Joe Payne starting in place of Dan Rumens and Ryan Blackman rested with James Mulley coming in. Town got off to the best start possible as early as the 2nd minute when, following a long throw on the left, Kezie Ibe latched on to a Billy Bricknell flick three yards out, turning and slotting in to the near corner.
As Town started brightly, Ibe continued to cause early problems - with a header from a Jay Porter cross that Melvin Minter in goal held comfortably, followed by another header that Bricknell picked up and shot into the side netting. Sam Youngs continued the positive approach for Town, hitting a low cross shot that just eluded Bricknell’s outstretched leg. A cross from Mickey Parcell was then controlled by Bricknell with his back to goal and he teed up Matt Johnson whose shot was blocked.
The visitors were forced to make an early change around the half hour mark; Youngs was replaced by the returning Lewis Taaffe after hobbling off with what looked like a foot injury. Bricknell had another shot on the turn just wide as Town continued to dominate.
But then, as has been the case in a number of previous matches, a goal out of nowhere was grabbed by the opposition as Duane Ofori-Acheampong picked a loose ball some 40 yards out in the middle of the park and ran at the centre of Town's defence before dispatching a low shot to Matt Nolan's left. Lewis Taaffe found room for a cross that Ibe got his head to but the former Hendon man's effort was deflected wide.
A bizarre situation ended with a caution for Micky Parcell as there was a second ball on the pitch; the referee not stopping play and continuing for some time with two balls on the pitch. A Whitehawk attack was cleared and, as the players squeezed out, Parcell kicked the ‘second’ ball further up the pitch and the referee stopped the game to issue a yellow for 'unsportsmanlike behaviour’. There was just time before the break for a shot from Matt Johnson which narrowly cleared the bar and for Whitehawk to have a 'goal’ chalked off for offside.
Half-time: Whitehawk 1 Enfield Town 1
Towners started the second the livelier side, although final balls were not finding a white shirt often enough. The dangerous Ofori-Acheampong shot just over, and the 'Hawks began to get the upper hand. Nathaniel Pinney showed strength on the edge of the box, producing in a shot which was again deflected behind for a corner. This was followed by a succession of corners for the hosts but the Towners defence held firm.
From a clearance under pressure, Town had a quick break with Billy Bricknell sending a diagonal ball to the far corner of the penalty area where Parcell was looking to beat Minter to the bouncing ball. Melvin grabbed the ball and Parcell was slightly late with his challenge. It did not look a bad foul; just a mistimed attempt at getting the ball, but the referee issued a second yellow and consequent marching orders.
Far from being affected, and perhaps thinking about playing for a point, the Towners took the game to Whitehawk, keeping two men up front. Mo Faal replaced Kezie Ibe with twenty minutes left. Hawks' Fintan Walsh found space down the Town left for a couple of dangerous crosses but, thankfully from a Town perspective, they both eluded onrushing red shirts.
From another quick break Bricknell did well to win and hold the ball up in the corner and won himself a free kick. Lewis Taaffe’s ball in was flicked on at the near post and Town loanee Joe Payne hit the sweetest of volleys with his right foot from 12 yards out that hit the top corner of the net before Minter could react. A stunning strike that put the Towners back in control.
Town continued to work hard and not showing that they were a player down. Faal twisted and turned, but his weak shot was easily claimed by Minter. Then more good work found the ex-KIngstonian striker on the edge of the box and he laid the ball perfectly to Billy Bricknell fire accurately low beyond the graps of Minter to his right. A trademark Bricknell finish, which effectively sealed the points.
But Whitehawk reacted well and Nolan made a fine save to deny 'Kaye Christie from close range. Then sub Jason Williams found himself well-placed, but Nolan again saved well. With Faal hobbling, Town were effectively playing with nine fit players. A shot was blocked from yet another accurate cross from out wide and the game ended with John Paul Kissock hitting a volley from distance into Nolan’s arms.
In the circumstances an excellent all-round performance from Town, with plenty of effort and resilience, especially when reduced to ten (and then effectively nine men). The drive for play-off places is hotting up, with fierce competition all around.
Whitehawk: Melvin Minter, Fintan Walsh, Aaron Goode, Yannis Ambroisine, Sinn'Kaye Christie, Lucas Rodrigues, John Paul Kissock, Duane Ofori-Acheampong, Henry Muggeridge, Ky Marsh-Brown (Rob Deda 82), Nathaniel Pinney (Williams 82). Unused subs: Connor Tighe, Henry Watson, Eze Ebuzoeme. Booked: Kissock, Rodrigues, Marsh-Brown.
Enfield Town: Matt Nolan, Mickey Parcell, Jay Porter, Sam Hatton, Marc Weatherstone, Joe Payne, James Mulley, Matt Johnson, Billy Bricknell (Dan Rumens 83), Kezie Ibe (Muhammadu Faal 70), Sam Youngs (Lewis Taaffe 31). Unused subs: Josh Davison, Aaron Greene. Booked: Parcell. Sent off: Parcell.