08:20PM, Saturday 18 September 2021
Slough’s goalscorer and the sponsor’s man of the match, Freddie Grant
Slough Town 1, Whitehawk 3
Slough Town made a disappointing and unexpected exit from the FA Cup this afternoon after a deserved 3-1 defeat to step 4 level Whitehawk at Arbour Park.
This was supposed to be the game which gave the Rebels the spark they needed to kick on and improve their league form, having made a shaky start to the season in National League South.
Instead, it reinforced the worries and concerns that were already there and left joint managers Neil Baker and Jon Underwood with some ‘serious questions’ over certain individuals after a performance from the Rebels that was well below the levels expected.
They’ve also now lost the safety blanket a good cup run provides a team that’s been struggling in the league.
If Slough allowed their level to drop, Whitehawk raised theirs, and at the end of 90 minutes you’d have been hard pushed to say which was the National League side and which played in the Isthmian League South East Division.
The second qualifying round tie started well enough for the Rebels, who took lead after only five minutes through defender Freddie Grant’s powerful, looping header from a long Guy Hollis throw.
More chances followed for the hosts, with Ben Harris sending a particularly gilt edged one wide in the 15th minute. You’d have thought for all the world the net would bulge when Harris - the scorer of two goals against St Albans City last week - met Josh Jackman’s cross with a powerful header at the back post, but it skimmed slightly off his forehead and flashed inches wide.
Within minutes the visitors were level and the solid start Slough had made began to crumble away. It was Whitehawk’s captain, Henry Muggeridge who grabbed the goal, running from deep onto a simple ball over the top from Adam El-Abd, to hook the ball past Jonathan North from close range having not been tracked by either the Rebels’ midfield or defence.
From that moment on the Rebels brittle confidence began to break up and Whitehawk sensed it, growing in confidence as the match wore on. Harris had a couple of attempts for the home side, dragging a low shot badly wide before seeing another close-range effort hacked off the line by a Whitehawk defender. But the visitors now posed an equal threat and James Fraser must still be wondering how North managed to keep out his thumping volley from the edge of the area in the 25th minute.
‘Press, press, press’, Baker urged from the touchline, looking for more intensity from his players but it didn’t materialise before Whitehawk netted their second on the stroke of half-time. The home side simply failed to defend a corner and Javaun Splatt rose highest to nod the ball past North from inside the six-yard box.
Joe Lawal came on for Sean Fraser at the break and added a much-needed presence up front and down the right flank, but the Rebels remained a soft touch in defence. In the 53rd minute Splatt was almost in for a second, flicking a shot with the outside of his foot at North from close range.
Jackman came close to a leveller for the home side in the 63rd minute, cutting in from the right before sending a rising drive just over the angle of post and bar. Most of the Rebels fans in the main stand, as well as Baker and Underwood, thought it was in.
Sadly, they remained behind on the scoreboard and there was a hint of desperation to the Rebels play as they continued to press without reward. On too many occasions passes or crosses went astray, or balls into the box failed to beat the first man.
When the Rebels did manage to create some space and whip in a dangerous cross, those in the middle weren’t committed enough to get ahead of their markers to make contact. Defensively, Whitehawk were magnificent, but they broke with the pace and panache of a side playing at a much higher level.
In the 68th minute they scored a beauty on the break. El-Abd headed away a cross and the ball was played forward for Splatt who slipped the ball in for Omarr Lawson. At pace he then played the ball with the outside of his boot into the path of Fraser who was able to hit it first time into the roof of the net. Many Slough fans applauded and most then began to suspect it wouldn’t be their afternoon.
The home side continued to press, in hope rather than expectation, and created a few half chances. Matt Lench fired well over from the edge of the area and Max Worsfold saw his close-range volley well saved by Nathan Stroomberg. Second half substitute Tom Derry then hit the underside of the bar in the 89th minute with a header that bounced into the ground and off the woodwork.
The Rebels could have suffered the ignominy of conceding a fourth, but Lawson failed to fire home from 10 yards out after being well picked out by Simon Mensah following a skilful run down the touchline.
After the final whistle, Underwood labelled the defeat ‘disastrous’: “In terms of the impact on the season, it’s a disastrous day. I can’t overstate that. It’s a disaster. This club needed the finances from a cup run. We’ve not been able to deliver that. That rests with me and Bakes. It’s dreadfully disappointing.
"We hoped this would be the day that kicked us off and drove us on, but it’s done the exact opposite. It’s left us questioning everything. “We’re a long way away from where we need to be. We’ve got some conversations to have over the next few days and then go from there.
“We didn’t show quality when we were chasing the game, and when we did deliver some quality, we didn’t show the desire to get on the end of it. It’s not a good combination.”