Whitehawk Semi-final First Leg Match Preview

Jason Bristow’s men are aiming to chalk up a fourth successive victory this season against the Brighton­based  side in the play­off semi­-final first leg. Remarkably all three games registered 1­-0 wins, so the Basingstoke manager knows what to expect tonight. Bristow is hoping former Premier League midfielder James Harper will be fully fit after illness while Liam Enver-­Marum and Shaun McAuley serve the last match of their three­match ban.

Jason Bristow insists his side are in far better shape for the play-offs than they were three years ago. And that is why the Basingstoke manager, will have a spring in his step when they visit Whitehawk tonight in the semi-final first leg.

The other tie features Havant & Waterlooville and Boreham Wood  with the eventual play-off  winner stepping into the highest tier of non-league football. There they will face relegated Football League sides, Tranmere Rovers, a club with a rich history, and Cheltenham Town.

It is an exciting prospect, especially for Bristow who led the side into this stage in his debut season in 2011/12 after replacing Frank Gray in February. But the dream ended in the semi-final when they lost to Dartford.

Bristow is determined not to slip up this time around and said: “It is a very different situation to the last time. Then we made a late charge and took everyone by surprise. Now the expectation is much higher as we have been around the top of the table most of the season.  But it is something we can manage.”

Bristow’s side finished the regular season with a 2-1 victory at Weston-super-Mare to cement third place in the table behind champions Bromley and Boreham Wood.

Whitehawk also ended with win against Havant & Waterlooville to swap places with them in the play-off places. Basingstoke have beaten the Sussex side three times already this season all by 1-0  with Chris  Flood scoring in the first two games and Liam Enver-Marum getting the winner in the
other.

Bristow said: “We know what Whitehawk are all about. They play good football and put you under pressure. But we have defended superbly against them this season and may need to do so again. Having said that, we have players with energy and pace who can be devastating on the counter attack and we are a team that can create a lof of chances.”

Basingstoke will not be short of support either and Bristow added: “I would like to thank the fans. They have been tremendous throughout the season.
“It is really heartening to see so many at away games. Hopefully we can give them a first leg lead so they can enjoy the occassion even more.”

THE OPPOSITION
Founded: They began life as Whitehawk and Manor Farm Old Boys in 1945 and later joined the Sussex County League before changing to Whitehawk in 1960. The club’s wish to be known as Brighton City has been put on hold .

Nickname: The Hawks

Club colours: Red and White

Stadium: Built into the side of a hill, the Enclosed Ground is situated close to the sea with views of the South Downs. With a capacity of 2,000 there is some open seating which was once in place at the Withdean Stadium when Brighton and Hove Albion played there.

Manager: Steve King took Macclesfield into the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history. They lost narrowly to eventual winners Wigan. He also performed a minor miracle at Lewes by taking them into the Conference.

Top goalscorer (league only): Jake Robinson­ – 18
Once tipped for stardom at Brighton ­ he scored for the first team  at 16 ­ Robinson is enjoying a productive season with 24 goals in all competitions. Former Basingstoke favourite Sergio Torres is also on Whitehawk’s books.

Form: Whitehawk are riding on the crest of a wave and made it five victories in their last six games by beating Havant &Waterlooville at the weekend and swapping play­off places with them as a result.  Their only recent defeat came at Ebbsfleet United.

From Ken Gaunt

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