All that was missing was the jumpers for goalposts. That aside, this New Year’s Day derby was every inch a playground tussle.
The game plan: all out attack. Defending: a secondary concern. The managers might not have been able to enjoy it, but the 212-strong crowd certainly could.
They have seen 41 league goals at the Saffrons this season – tap ins, penalties, errors – but none to match the 41st of those – Paul Armstrong’s incredible 45-yard volley.
The former Eastbourne Borough skipper struck with four minutes remaining to settle a match which had swung back and forth, and which was played at breakneck speed throughout.
In an opening as frenetic as it was entertaining, free-flowing Town were the first to strike.
After 13 minutes giant central defender Ryan James’ fierce free kick skimmed off a Whitehawk head and into the net.
The second goal arrived 10 minutes before the break when Sam Crabb pounced on an under-hit back pass and cleverly rounded the ‘keeper before lashing home.
A 2-0 half-time lead was deserved but Town only know one way – attack. And four minutes after the interval they had been pegged back. Armstrong’s introduction two minutes earlier had sparked the revival – the Irishman brought a dose more experience to the Whitehawk midfield and played his part in a slick passing move which was finished off by Wes Tate.
With 20 minutes to go it was 2-2 as Tate grabbed his second from close range.
Back swung the pendulum – James trotted up from the back to fire another fine free kick past the Hawks stopper to hand Town the advantage in the 76th minute.
But again they couldn’t hold on – with eight minutes left Jamie Brotherton rifled in from just inside the 18-yard-box, and a minute later Tate had his hat-trick; striking low past Kieron Thorp.
Armstrong’s effort was the icing on the cake; he glanced goalwards and sent a perfect dipping volley over Thorp’s head.
The ‘keeper was hardly two yards from his line but the strike was just too good. It capped a remarkable derby and sent the Hawks top.
Afterwards, Town boss Danny Bloor lamented his side’s defensive frailties.
He said, “Twelve months ago when I took the job we couldn’t score a goal for love nor money but we kept a clean sheet in my first game, whereas it would have been nice to keep a clean sheet today.
“I think it (our defending) is naïve, you know. When you get into the position of 2-0 up you probably keep the ball.
“It’s not just the defenders, you defend from the front and in the first half we did it really well. Maybe we got tired in the end - in the second half we didn’t do it so well.”
Town: Thorp 6, Simmonds 6 (Elliot 71), Kessack 6, Greg Manton 6, James 7, Patton 7, Ferdinando 6 (Farmer 73), Crabb 8 (Brad Manton 77), Rivers 7, Hopkinson 7, Robinson 7. Subs not used: Cooper, Carruthers. MoM: Sam Crabb: an excellent attacking outlet on the right.
Referee: David Spain 6 Att: 212