By Sonny Turner
Burgess Hill Town had to settle for a goalless draw when they travelled to Whitehawk, as they were unable to convert their chances in order to claim all three points.
It was the home side who dominated possession early in the game, with Burgess Hill defending well, forcing Whitehawk to move the ball around mainly in their own defensive third and middle of the pitch. Despite having the majority of the ball, the hosts failed to create, and it was the away side who made their possession count, carving out dangerous opportunities, resulting in great feats of agility and reflex from Whitehawk goalkeeper Nathan Stroomberg-Clark.
The first impressive save from Stroomberg-Clark followed a break down the right hand side, Max Miller having the beating of Luke Emberson at left back all game, the Burgess Hill winger rounding his man and firing into Lewis Finney, who from six yards out struck the ball towards goal, surely believing he had scored. Stroomberg-Clark, however, had other ideas, managing to throw himself at the ball, smothering it and then hooking it wide to safety.
An identical passage of play, with Miller again beating Emberson down the right, resulted in the second stand out save of the game by the Whitehawk goalkeeper. Miller rolled the ball across the box, the ball being met and sent hurtling towards the goal, but once more Stroomberg-Clark refused to be beaten, diving across the goal in an instant to prevent losing his clean sheet. A clean sheet which he thoroughly deserved.
For those who had been watching the Whitehawk number one warming up, his trainer blasting balls at him from no further a distance than 12 yards, the keeper somehow continually managing to get a hand out in time to prevent them from crossing his line, the performance came as no surprise.
Emberson, who had a poor game, and was responsible for the defensive breaches which called his goalkeeper into action, was lucky his night didn’t get worse when he escaped a red card in the second half, receiving only yellow, for a late challenge, raking down the calf of his opponent.
The visitors were well supported throughout the game, with a chorus of support right from kick off from their fans; after a poor start to the season, currently sitting 18th in the league, they had been treated to back to back wins before facing Whitehawk, beating Sevenoaks Town in the FA trophy and picking up their first league win beating Ramsgate on Saturday, so they were rightly in an optimistic mood.
Midway through the first half a Whitehawk corner induced the home support to dig into their pockets and pull out their keys, jangling them around in unison. This is what is known at Whitehawk as a ‘key moment’, a play on words which makes you exhale from your nose and shake your head, but nonetheless encourages the supporters to get behind their team and creates bemused looks from visiting fans. The corner came to nothing.
The family friendly Whitehawk, is a club which is conscientious of the role it can play in the community, with stairs leading to seats that read “love, peace, no racism, no sexism, no violence, no homophobia” and the fans having a no swearing policy, although this was broken for one song, but you could forgive them, they had to make their own entertainment in what was, for the most part, a dull watch.
Despite little to no entertainment in the second half, both the home and away fans were raucous and never stopped willing their teams to score; the highlight of the second half was the good natured invasion of the home end by Burgess Hill supporters, both sets of fans conversing in song, providing their own amusement when the game failed to do so.
There were a smattering of Burgess Hill chances other than the two glaring missed opportunities that Stroomberg-Clark saved. Breaking down the right, a theme of their attack, a floated ball towards the back post sailed past everyone, with Hayden Perez missing the opportunity to head in what looked like a certain goal, having not anticipated the defender in front of him missing the ball with an attempted clearance.
Burgess Hill forward Connor Tighe also came close to giving the away side what would have been a deserved lead, when he hit a curled effort onto the crossbar, the result of a well worked short corner.
Whitehawk did have a good chance themselves to take the lead when striker Javaun Splatt was sent through with only the goalkeeper to beat, but the legs of Burgess Hill’s number one Taylor Seymour denied him.
Perhaps channelling the feelings of the spectators, Splatt continually showed his frustrations throughout a second half in which very little happened, waving his arms around and berating his team-mates when they failed to spot his runs.
Two late chances towards the end of the game to steal victory were wasted by Whitehawk. The first fell to captain Henry Muggeridge who swiped and missed the ball inside the area when attempting to meet a cross. He eventually managed to control the ball and fire towards goal, but by the time he had, the opposing defenders had gathered round him and were able to smother the effort.
The second late chance came the way of Whitehawk defender Mohamed Kamara, who had a free header inside the box from a corner, but was only able to send the ball over the bar, an opportunity from which he should have done better.
With a point added to their tallies, Whitehawk now sit 14th, with Burgess Hill Town in 18th, both teams unbeaten in their last three, having managed, after poor starts, to build some momentum to take into their next fixtures. Whitehawk are now away to 16th placed Faversham Town in a game they will believe they can win, and Burgess Hill are looking to leap frog 17th placed Sevenoaks Town at home, who they beat on penalties in the FA trophy this season.