The FA Cup is famously known for its ‘magic’ but unfortunately Whitehawk’s descent from the competition is no illusion, following Wednesday night’s dramatic extra-time defeat at the hands of League Two opposition, Dagenham and Redbridge.
The reward for victory at The Enclosed Ground was a third round tie at Goodison Park, which had both club’s bouncing at the prospect of facing Premier League opposition and also the financial benefit from a trip to face Everton.
But after two hours of entertainment, the London club sealed a money-spinning trip to Merseyside, scoring the winning goal in extra-time to leave Whitehawk fans dejected and devastated at what could have been.
Danny Mills put the Hawks in front after 32 minutes, only to see the lead overturned with goals from Kyle Vassell and Josh Passley swinging the contest in favour of the away side. With only seconds remaining, Juan Cruz Gotta headed an equaliser deep into stoppage time and sent the cup contest into an added 30 minutes of battle.
Despite Whitehawk’s best efforts and their numerical advantage following James Dunne’s dismissal, the away side found the final breakthrough as Ayo Obileye headed the winning goal from a corner and sent the Daggers through after 210 minutes of breathtaking second round drama.
Whitehawk may feel like they fell at the last hurdle, with a dream cup tie waiting in the wings but aside from the obvious disappointment at missing out, pride can be taken from a fantastic run that saw the club reach new heights.
Fans can take comfort from impressive performances against Football League opposition and if the same level of commitment is taken into the league season, Dagenham and Redbridge could possibly return next season for domestic purposes.
The disappointment of narrowly missing out on a club-enhancing third round tie could have a negative impact on the season that remains, however Steve King and the players must move on swiftly and reignite the excitement that’s been present throughout their FA Cup run.
English football’s top two tiers begin their journey as Whitehawk’s seven-game adventure sadly comes to an end. The frustration is real but likewise is the pride surrounding their heroic efforts. Whitehawk may not be heading to Goodison Park but after an honourable flirt with the FA Cup, Whitehawk have highlighted their location within English Football and must take the positives from a memorable journey that ended just short.