Match Data 2002/2003
Hinckley United 2
Wes Chalmers (Ferrett, 10)
Brett Poate (Fennemore, 90)
Warren Haughton (Leworthy, 76)
Jackson (Wilkes, 90)
Smith (Jenkins, 73)
The repercussions of Saturday’s defeat came to light on the pitch last night as the Hawks lined up to kick off against Hinckley United. While the need for the few remaining points continues to grow, the number of fit players able to get them continues to decrease. Christian Hanson has gone the way of Gareth Hall and is now said to be doubtful in the short term, and Shaun Gale too was missing from a back line that saw Wes Chalmers start at right back with up and comer Dan Turner next to him. Wes’s rare but promising start came to an abrupt end though just ten minutes into the game, when a collision left him clutching a foot that he was still unable to walk on past the final whistle. A hasty change saw Chris Ferrett come on at left back, Brett Poate moving in front of him, and Neil Champion slipped back from the midfield to the defence.
Such was the mix and match combination that struggled through the remaining 80 minutes of an encounter won 4-2 last season. Chris Smith found the net for the Knitters as early as the sixth minute, but his chance lob over Aaron Kerr was ruled out for being offside. In the opening stages it was Smith and Leon Jackson that looked to be making the most trouble for the Hawks, but in the 21st minute Dave Sadler opened the scoring and started a tremendous performance that easily marked him as Hinckley’s key player. It was an awkward goal, Sadler latching onto an over the shoulder ball that bounced up in front of him just enough to fool Kerr, but never the less it gave the home side a vital lead.
It didn’t last long though. Soon after Smith had attempted another long chip that drifted wide of the far post, the Hawks won a corner that Poate sent spinning in from the right. Alec Masson timed his jump perfectly and sent the ball home with a thumping header that levelled the score in the 29th minute. The remainder of the half though was uneventful. More crosses from Poate looked threatening but were unmet, and Warren Haughton sent a similar effort from Bobby Howe up and wide.
The second half brought little further to excite the small but largely happy away support as they basked in an unexpected evening warmth completely at odds with the sub zero temperatures found at Middlefield Lane last January. The half started with Hinckley’s other key play maker Martin Fox tricking a short corner dangerously to the far post, the first of many set piece kicks that would keep the Hawks on their toes through the rest of the game.
Jamie Lenton cursed himself when he skewed the ball wide of the post, unmarked, just before the hour, and the Hawks anxiously awaited a Poate special from outside the box when he was brought down by Paul Browne in an incident that earned the on loan Nuneaton Borough defender a yellow card. Uncharacteristically though, Poate’s free kick slammed into the wall.
Paul Wood saw a soft shot roll to keeper Tom Whittle after a long throw from Champion got pushed around the Hinckley area, and at the other end Jackson spurned another open goal with a hasty shot sent over the bar. Sadler seized his opportunity to put the Knitters ahead for the second time in the 75th minute. Fox’s corner swung dangerously into the goal mouth, escaping the Hawks defence entirely, and Sadler forced a super block from Kerr before pouncing on the rebound to fire home over the downed keeper.
With ten minutes to go the Hawks showed signs of claiming a draw, Taylor unlucky that the ball wouldn’t sit up for him after a cutting through ball from Wood, but Sadler stayed in search of a hat-trick with a near post header that slid down the wrong side of the netting after yet another great corner from Fox.
Relentless, Sadler ran the ball almost single-handedly at the Hawks defence in the closing five minutes of the game, Turner called on to make some last ditch clearances while youth team compatriot Lewis Fennemore came on on the right for the final minute and some crosses that Dave Leworthy couldn’t turn home. In all, a frustrating experience for the players after such a lengthy Tuesday night trek to the Midlands, with the prospect of the same journey midweek next week to re-enter the lion’s den at the Lamb. Before then however come two important games against the league’s second and third placed clubs, and the chance of one further upset this season to give the Hawks the three points they need to keep them in the Premier Division next season.
As with last season, a footnote to express admiration for Hinckley’s programme. One of the best in the League again, truly fact packed and crammed with information. I’ll even excuse the small point that the match photos from the last Hawks/Knitters game came from this site originally, and not Hinckley Independent as credited ;)