The Isthmian League (South East Division) is a favourite of mine and there are only four grounds left out of the 20 sides that I have yet to visit. Being accompanied by my visiting football loving father, it was an ideal opportunity to get to the coast to visit Whitehawk FC, who play on the edge of Brighton, as they played the in form Sheppey United, newly promoted from the Southern Counties East Football League, last summer.
Coming into today’s match, Whitehawk sat in fourth place, just seven points behind Chatham Town and six behind Beckenham Town, who in second and third place, were still pushing leaders Ramsgate, for the automatic promotion place this season. Whitehawk’s goals this season have come from Joe Shelley (11 goals) and Rob O’Toole (7 goals).
Sheppey United have recovered from the huge transition the club made in the Summer and Autumn of 2022, with manager Ernie Batten moving to become a Director of Football and Mercurial Assistant Manager, Marcel Nimani departing, to eventually emerge as new manager at local rivals, Whitstable Town. Sheppey United turned to Jack Midson, their renowned striker, to lead the club and after some inconsistent early season performances, Midson had seen his largely new squad, launch a ten game unbeaten run, which has taken them to the brink of the play off places. Goals have flowed throughout the season, from the boot of Warren Mfula (21 this season) and both Jake Embery and Jack Midson (7 goals each).
Whitehawk have the fifth highest average attendance in the league this season, with 368. The Enclosed ground has a capacity of 3126, with two large seated stands. Whitehawk have a famous hardcore group of fans, known as the “Ultras” who share a commitment to anti racist, anti homophobic and anti sexist behaviours and beliefs.
The ground is sheltered (enclosed) by parkland and hills around it and benefits from a decent sized clubhouse with a bar and burger/chicken shop. Whitehawk have two grandstands at the Enclosed ground, with significant levels of covered seating. There was live music in the clubhouse and free blood pressure checks. Outside the club tannoy played 90’s dance and even local favourites, the Go Team, to keep the atmosphere up, in the warming winter sun.
The first half started well with both teams pushing forward with confidence. There were good chances for both sides with Jack Midson looking a threat for Sheppey United, while Whitehawk’s Shay Leahy worked hard to put the away defence under pressure.
When the opening goal came, in the 28th minute, for Whitehawk, it was scored by Rob O’Toole, with a crisp volley, after a free kick from the right.
At the break the sides went in with Whitehawk FC a goal to the good. Sheppey United’s player manager, Jack Midson, could be seen rallying his players as they left the pitch.
The second half saw a transformed Sheppey side come out fighting. They created chances and saw two good headed opportunities out wide. They sustained the passing play that has characterised their recent run of form, throughout the half but without luck.
Even the addition of talismanic forward Warren Mfula, couldn’t produce the goal required and it was no surprise when in the 88th minute it was Whitehawk’s Luke Robinson who sealed the three points with a well taken break away goal to make the final score 2-0.
At the final whistle it was the home side who took all the points. My father and I, along with the crowd of 466, had enjoyed visiting Whitehawk FC and the matchday experience at the Enclosed ground. We hadn’t seen a classic but it had been a game where both sides had given their all.