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Gillingham keeper Daren Hawkes enjoys play-off success with Liam Daish's Ebbsfleet United

Daren Hawkes
Daren Hawkes

Gillingham goalkeeper Daren Hawkes joined the Ebbsfleet promotion party on Sunday after playing a small but vital role in helping them back into Blue Square Premier.

Hawkes (pictured), who steps up from Gills’ youth side to the first team next season, was originally signed by Fleet in February to cover regular keeper Preston Edwards’ one game suspension.

An injury to Edwards, however, meant the 17-year-old keeper was drafted in for Fleet’s two-legged semi-final against Chelmsford, which his adopted side won 4-1 and 2-1, to book themselves a final spot in the play-offs.

Edwards returned for the final, with Hawkes on the bench, and it was a special few weeks for the Tenterden youngster.

"I got involved with the celebrations because while I am there I was part of it and I tried to do my best for them," he said.

"Liam Daish gave me the opportunity to go there and they got what they deserved.

"I was only originally supposed to be playing for one game but the two managers had a chat and thought it would be good experience for me to stay there and be involved in the first team.

"It was a great experience for me to have. I am only 17 so I haven’t experienced anything like that before. It’s only going to help me out in the future.

"It’s a confidence booster to be out playing alongside men and in front of big crowds. At first it is a bit daunting but you get used to it and you just need to focus on the game."

Hawkes is currently Gillingham's only keeper after boss Andy Hessenthaler release senior pros Alan Julian and Lance Cronin at the end of the season.

Ebbsfleet’s regular keeper Edwards, meanwhile, has received a call-up to the England C side.

The England side, managed by Paul Fairclough, face Portugal Under-23s in the International Challenge Trophy Final being held at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium on Thursday, May 19.

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