Ten-man Hawks show character to sink Fleet

Brian Stock   Picture: Allan Hutchings
Brian Stock Picture: Allan Hutchings

Lee Bradbury saluted the Hawks’ bravery following their gutsy 2-0 Vanarama Conference South win over Ebbsfleet United at Westleigh Park.

The home side had to play most of the second half with 10 men after Brian Stock was shown a straight red card.

Despite the setback, the Hawks went on to extend the lead given to them by Scott Donnelly just before the break.

Ben Swallow, with a little bit of help from the Fleet goalkeeper, added a second goal to earn his side a crucial success against their expensively-assembled opponents.

It was a well-drilled and professional performance from Bradbury’s play-off chasing side and one of their best of the season.

The only blot on the afternoon was the dismissal of Stock, who could now miss the final four games of the season.

Bradbury was full of praise for the performance of his side under difficult circumstances.

‘I thought we were fantastic for the whole 90 minutes,’ said the boss.

‘From a team point of view it is a fantastic result for us.

‘We nullified Ebbsfleet from the start and took the lead with a fantastic free-kick before half-time.

‘When we had to we caught them on the break with some lightning counter-attacks.

‘After the sending off we maintained our defensive shape and Ebbsfleet never really troubled us.

‘Goalkeeper Ryan Young hardly had a save to make and was supremely confident in the air to take all the crosses into our area.

‘I thought it was a very disciplined performance and we shut up shop to come out of it with a clean sheet.’

With the game crucial to both teams’ play-off ambitions, the Hawks showed they were up for it from the start.

It was no more than they deserved when Donnelly curled a superb free-kick over the defensive wall and into the net five minutes before the break.

Ten minutes into the second half the home side felt a little hard done by with the dismissal of Stock.

‘For me it was the melee that followed the foul that got him sent off,’ said Bradbury.

‘Nine times out of 10 it is a yellow card but they have crowded around the referee and pushed him into a corner.

‘Our player was fouled first and then gone into a tackle where their lad moved the ball away.

‘He has caught him but it is not a red card for me.

‘It is not high or reckless and he has just caught him on the foot.

‘Having already been sent off a couple of times this season, we fear what he might get.’

The Hawks refused to let the setback faze them, though.

And they got their reward when the visiting keeper allowed a Swallow shot to squirm through his hands and into the net.

‘This could be a massive three points,’ said Bradbury.

Hawks: Young, Strugnell, Cummings, Stock, Dutton, Harris, Swallow, Donnelly, Wright (Awford, 59min), Bubb (Hooper, 70min), Huggins (Ciardini, 70min)

Att: 956.