DARREN FREEMAN has called on his Whitehawk players to start showing they are up for the challenge of Conference south football.

The Hawks suffered a fourth defeat out of five in Conference south when they went down 2-0 away to a Sutton United side who began the day just one point above them in the table.

The home side looked stronger, sharper and hungrier than a Whitehawk team who got little right all afternoon.

This is a club who are not used to choppy waters after four years of plain sailing in their journey from the County League to the sixth tier of English football.

Now they must dig deep to show this difficult spell is no more than a hiccup in their quest to be competitive at this level.

Freeman insists he is up to the challenge of proving any doubters wrong.

Now he wants his players to do the same.

The Hawks boss said: “We were outplayed in every department, we didn’t look like we were going to score and it was all really disappointing.

“It is no good feeling sorry for ourselves. We are in it together, we must pick ourselves up and get on with it.

“The penny has got to drop. They all think they are good players and they are getting decent money.

“It is all right saying how good they are but don’t tell me, show me. They need to get on the pitch and be counted for.

“We will work on things in training and see where it takes us.”

Although the first half finished goalless, that did not paint a true picture.

Sutton carved out six extremely good chances and would have been out of sight but for the excellence of Hawks goalkeeper Chris Winterton.

His best two saves were with his legs from former Eastbourne Borough striker Jamie Taylor, who seemed certain to score in the 17th minute, and then low down from Marvin Williams in the 34th minute after the forward again sliced open a fragile defence.

Hawks created few chances of their own but should have broken the deadlock just before the half-hour mark when an unmarked Lewis Taylor somehow headed a Danny Mills cross over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

Sutton finally broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half from a needlessly conceded free-kick which former Scotland international Paul Telfer whipped into the danger zone and skipper Jamie Stuart headed home.

Freeman made some positives changes in a bid to force an equaliser but Whitehawk’s afternoon was summed up when substitute Jake Robinson’s fierce goalbound shot struck team-mate Mills and cannoned to safety.

The hosts put a seal on victory ten minutes from time when substitute Dean McDonald showed good feet in the penalty area to set up Craig Dundas for a second goal.

The worry for Whitehawk is they failed to produce the quality of football which has won them three promotions in four seasons.

Freeman added: “I feel our confidence is down at the moment. No one seems to want to get the ball down and play. We have got the players but at the moment they are not producing.”

Alex Parsons is following Sam Gargan out of the club on loan for a month. Gargan, who is joining Peacehaven, warmed up with the team before the game on Saturday as Whitehawk did not want him FA Cup-tied.

Sutton: Lovelock, Telfer, Downer, Stuart, Rents; Fuseini, Riviere; Binns (sub Scannell 79), Dundas, Taylor (sub McDonald 79), Williams (sub Folkes 72). Subs not used: Nelson, Sinclair.

Whitehawk: Winterton; Pearson (sub Robinson 71), Lawrence, Cadmore, El-Abd; Boateng, T.Fraser, Taylor (sub Keehan 46), Adelakun (sub Erskine 60); J.Fraser; Mills. Subs not used: Henry, Edinho Junior.

Referee: Gary Jerden.

Attendance: 451.