Thurrok 1 v 1 Hawks
The Hawks were forced to settle for a point in a dismal 1-1 draw at Thurrock`s Ship Lane this afternoon. The side, returning to league action after a break of almost three weeks, dominated much of the game, but the hosts snuck the lead from a 71st minute corner when substitute Leon McKenzie was left unmarked for a well placed header.
The visitors drew level ten minutes later when Mo Harkin pounced onto a rebound from a Brett Poate free kick and rifled the ball home through a sea of players, but the revival stopped there and the Hawks now slip further down the table into tenth place.
Manager Ian Baird stayed with the same eleven that knocked Carshalton Athletic out of the FA Cup last weekend, with suspensions for Richard Paquette and Jamie Collins due to end in time for next Saturday`s fourth qualifying round match at Brackley.
The Hawks started into a bright sun with early chances carved from free kicks and corners. Harkin`s first 30 yard ball swung into the box but was punched away by keeper James Hussey, and defender Greg Heald had to be quick to snatch the ball away from Carl Wilson-Denis as the striker bore down on a neat through ball from Rocky Baptiste.
Neil Sharp came closest to claiming an early lead when he twisted to fire low at Hussey after Baptiste brought down a long ball at the back of the box, but the keeper managed to get down on the ball.
Justin Gregory`s surging run saw him claim the ball by the corner flag for a neat knock back down the line to Poate. Poate`s swinging cross met Baptiste unchallenged, but the striker angled his header two yards over the bar.
In a familiar tale though, the pressure the visitors were enjoying provided little in the way of results, and the hosts slowly began to find their feet. Hawks keeper Shane Gore was quick to charge forward and punch the ball clear of Matt Lovell when the hosts mounted an attack from their left, but dramatic defending prevented the Hawks from going ahead minutes later.
Gregory`s through ball came to Baptiste via Wilson-Denis, and the striker raced toward goal for a close shot that Hussey turned round his near post. The ball then went loose from the corner and havoc ensued as Thurrock tried to clear, with Baptiste denied from close range after Sharp blasted a shot onto the foot of the post from the back of the box.
A hair-raising moment of weakness at the other end closed the half when Gore managed to stop the visitors taking an unlikely lead. Hassan Nyang`s diagonal ball picked out Lovell, who had again been left unmarked on Thurrock`s left flank. He brought the ball forward looking for an angle to strike, and delayed long enough for Gore to come barrelling forward to smother the shot.
Havant and Waterlooville 0
Poate picked out Harkin streaking away on the right as the Hawks broke from a Thurrock free kick minutes into the second half. Hussey blocked Harkin`s ranged shot, but couldn`t hold it, and Wilson-Denis got a knee to the loose ball, pushing it past the keeper onto the post.
Almost immediately Dean Holdsworth replaced Wilson-Denis in the only change the Hawks made during the game.
Harkin sent in another shot, ably sent spinning away by Heald, and their domination gave the visitors the impression of a side waiting to score. Michael Warner saw an effort turned round the post after Harkin set him up, and Poate thumped a free kick through the Thurrock wall straight into Hussey`s arms.
Baptiste picked up a quickly taken Poate free kick in the 70th minute and turned the ball back along the six yard line for Holdsworth to scoop the ball agonisingly over the bar.
But not for the first time on the road this season, the Hawks` lack of finishing saw their hard work undone when Thurrock snatched the lead against the run of play in the 71st minute. Leigh Harrington`s corner curled nicely into the middle of the box, where Leon McKenzie was given all the space he needed to plant a perfect header past Gore.
The visitors reeled noticeably and their game began to disintegrate quickly, but a moment of brilliance from Harkin ten minutes later fired the side back into life. Poate hit a free kick from just outside the box straight through the Thurrock wall, but the ball rebounded off Heald and spun away to Harkin, who angled a clear shot on the half volley back through the box into the far corner.
By Rich Self
Thurrok 1 v 1 Hawks
Thurrok 1 v 1 Hawks