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Hawks Pip Darts To National League South Title

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The biggest prize – the title itself – was still up for grabs on the final day of the regular Vanarama National League South season on Saturday.

And on a day of high drama, just 3 goals proved the difference between the championship and a place in the play-off semi-finals.

At Westleigh Park, Havant & Waterlooville began the day on top spot and with a superior goal difference, thanks to a 6-1 thrashing of East Thurrock United last Wednesday.

They entertained Concord Rangers and led 2-0 at the break, thanks to goals from Theo Lewis after 8 minutes and Matty Tubbs on 25 minutes.

But the Beachboys fought back to level the scores with goals from Andy Freeman after 52 minutes and then Steve Cawley with only 10 minutes remaining.

However, a minute from the end of normal time, top scorer Jason Prior kept snatched a late winner to hand Lee Bradbury’s side the championship, despite Dartford’s 2-1 win at already-relegated Bognor Regis Town`s Nyewood Lane.

Only a massive win would do for the Darts, but it took Danny Mills until the hour-mark to break the deadlock.

Ronnie Vint netted a second with 13 minutes remaining, but their chances had already gone when Ollie Pearce reduced the arrears 5 minutes from time as news of the Hawks` late winner filtered through.

The other major issue to settle was who would join Bognor and Whitehawk in dropping back into the feeder leagues.

Hungerford Town began the day outside the bottom three, a point in front of Poole Town, but on a run of six successive defeats.

The Dolphins, in contrast, had bagged four points from their last two games.

Poole were at home to Oxford City, while the Crusaders travelled to Essex to take on an out-of-form East Thurrock United.

And Hungerford managed to break their poor run, thanks to Nicky Bignall`s goal after 8 minutes.

Whatever Poole did now was irrelevant, but they did manage to win, with goals from James Constable after 64 minutes and Steve Devlin 7 minutes from time, but it was too late as Hungerford had come good in the end.

The final play-off places were taken by Braintree Town and Truro City after St Albans City`s outside chance went with a 2-1 defeat at Twerton Park by Bath City, who finished ninth.

A 78th minute penalty from Matt Richards, who missed from the spot in the first half, was the difference between the sides, yet Bath still required `keeper Luke Southwood to save a Sam Merson spot-kick given for handball 6 minutes from time.

The sides were all-square at the break, Tom Smith`s 32nd minute opener for Bath being cancelled out by Zane Banton right on half-time before the second half penalty drama unfolded.

Truro City got the point they wanted in a 1-1 draw at the Beveree against fourth-placed Hampton & Richmond Borough.

It took just 3 minutes for the White Tigers to take the lead when a clearance fell to Ben Gerring who put the ball back into the danger zone where a flick-on found Tom Owen-Evans who poked home from close range.

The equaliser that the Beavers had threatened duly arrived just past the hour-mark when Jack Cook`s near-post header beat Jo-Jo Wollacott.

Braintree also sealed their place in sixth after a 3-0 home win over Gloucester City.

It was goalless at half-time, but just 5 minutes after the interval, Reece Grant gave the Iron the lead.

Josh Hill doubled the home side`s advantage 13 minutes from time and a second for Grant in the first minute of stoppage time completed victory.

Hampton and Hemel Hempstead Town will have home play-off quarter-finals against Truro and Braintree respectively next week.

Hemel though will go into the tie on the back of a last-day defeat after going down to a 2-1 defeat at the Woodspring Stadium against Weston-super-Mare.

And the Tudors led too, courtesy of a 35th minute Danny Greenslade own goal.

Jarrad Welch equalised 4 minutes before the break and 11 minutes after the restart, Jacob Cane put the Seagulls into a lead they held on to.

Chelmsford City warmed up for their play-off semi-final next weekend with a comfortable 3-0 win at Priory Lane against Eastbourne Borough.

In-form Scott Fenwick bagged another brace for the Clarets in the 52nd and 68th minutes, with Anthony Church adding the other 11 minutes from time.

Elsewhere, Chippenham Town have to be congratulated for an excellent first season at this level as a 1-0 win at Hardenhuish Park against Welling United gave them a very respectable thirteenth place finish.

Andy Sandell`s 18th minute strike proved the difference, and the Bluebirds held out, despite having Jon Beeden sent-off with a straight red card 13 minutes from time.

Already-relegated Whitehawk ended their National League South spell with a 1-0 home defeat to Wealdstone, whose Ricky Wellard grabbed the only goal 19 minutes from the end of normal time.


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