“We’re football for all.” This was the message that was defiantly boomed out from both sets of supporters at the TerraPura Ground on Tuesday night, with those in attendance fulfilling their desire to create a unique sense of togetherness whilst their respective sides battled hard on the pitch, searching for a much needed three points.
Whilst there remained a healthy sense of tribalism between the two sets of fans, the like of which can be seen at every competitive football match up and down the country on a Saturday afternoon, it was refreshing to hear fans look past the contest that is playing out in front of them to incorporate chants addressing some of the most pressing issues facing wider society like racism, sexism and homophobia. From the inclusive chanting to the green and black ties worn by the hardcore Burgess Hill Town supporters who had made the trip down the A23, the importance of presenting a unique identity for both sets of fans was clear to see.
Whilst the 340 people in attendance were being suitably entertained by what was going on off the pitch, the game that played out on it left a lot to be desired in what was a hard fought scrap between two sides wanting to get themselves away from the bottom of the table and build some much needed momentum in the league.
Hawks keeper Nathan Stroomberg-Clarke was a deserved man of the match as he produced some important stops in the first half to deny the visitors, who will feel they had the best of the opportunities to take all three points back to Laylands Park. At the other end of the pitch Hillians shot-stopper Taylor Seymour also had to be alert at times and made a couple of vital saves which meant Jay Lovett’s men didn’t go away empty handed.
The away-side, who came into this game on the back of their first three points of the season in the Isthmian League South East Division, started the better of the two sides as they mounted some sustained pressure on the Whitehawk 18 yard-box with Ross Standen’s side struggling to make it out of their own half.
The first big chance of the game came with just over 20 minutes on the clock as Burgess Hills’ Max Miller made the first of a few bursts down the right-hand side as he beat the Whitehawk fullback to the byline before whipping the ball across to Lewis Finney who’s goal-bound effort was expertly blocked by Stroomberg-Clarke who managed to spread himself and force the ball wide for a corner.
The barrage on Whitehawk’s goal continued as the ball found its way to Hillian’s striker Connor Tighe on the edge of the area, with his curling effort rebounding off the crossbar, inches away from dropping underneath and giving his side a well deserved lead.
The best save of the half came just after the half hour mark as Miller once again beat his man on the right-hand side but his good work was left unrewarded as Tighe was this time denied from close range by the Whitehawk keeper who looked to have turned up to the TerraPurra ground as a man on a mission.
Whilst it was the Hawks who were firmly on the back-foot for the opening 35 minutes of the game, it was Standen’s side who had their foot on the gas for the last ten minutes of the first half, with inform striker Javaun Splatt, who had seven goals in as many games coming into this fixture, having a chance from close range to put his side ahead against the run of play. His shot was saved by the legs of Seymour for a corner which produced the first glimpse of what Whitehawk fans described as a ‘key moment’, in which those behind the goal jangle a set of keys as the corner is taken in a creative display of support which continues to add to the unique identity of the East-Sussex based football club.
The second half was unable to provide much quality from either side with the best chances to break the deadlock coming in the last 15 minutes of the contest with Stroomberg-Clarke forced into making two more vital stops in order to prevent any late heartbreak for the home side.
Miller who was influential in most of Burgess Hill’s first half play in the final third nearly managed to get on the scoresheet as he unleashed a powerful drive at goal from around 25 yards-out but the Whitehawk number one was equal to it and got across his near-post to palm it away to safety. The resulting corner was punched away by the man of the match on the night under pressure from four Burgess Hill players who found themselves occupying the six yard-box.
The home side may feel slightly frustrated with the amount chances they squandered in the game and they had two more before full time to steal all three points which were subsequently wasted. The best of them fell to Whitehawk defender Mo Kamara who will be happy with the clean sheet but will feel he could’ve done better with his close range header which flew high over Seymour’s net and into the stands behind.
As the referee finally brought the game to an end it was evident to see the frustration on the faces of both sets of players as they failed to capitalise on the few clear cut opportunities that were created to potentially give their side a huge boost and take all three points from the TerraPurra stadium.
This result leaves Whitehawk in 14th place who are now unbeaten in their last three games in all competitions, coming into this one on the back of wins against Tooting and Mitcham and East Grinstead Town respectively. The visitors find themselves in 18th position after picking up their second draw of the season but will be looking ahead to their clash with Sevenoaks Town on the weekend where they can leap-frog Micky Collin’s side in the table with a win.