SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Vansittart 63.]
HAVANT & WATERLOOVILLE – 1 [Taylor 85.]
When you suffer a mauling such as the one recieved at Grays on tuesday night, you’re obviously looking to get back on track straight away. Which is easier said than done when your home form is as cack as ours.
1 point from a possible 15 at Gander Green Lane has left us moping around at the wrong end of the table, with wins snatched at Newport & Bognor so far failing to ignite the campaign. So with the visit of Havant for their first league match here, we welcome a side in slightly better, but just as erratic form as ourselves. A definite chance to break the duck?
As per usual, I find the rest of the mob in the pub, with tuesdays shocking parking episode still providing some amused conversation.
JR is forced to make his now customary reshuffle for this clash, with Andy Iga returning in goal after Phil Wilson is injured. Also back are Nigel Brake and Andrew Martin, plus Joff, who once again, slots in at the back. Sadly, we’re denied the sight of our ex-keeper Gareth Howells for the visitors as he’s currently serving a suspension.
The side make a bright start and seem keen to finally nail that poor home form. Just 5 minutes in, Gray gets down the right and whips a cross to the far post. Brake heads back across goal and Akuamouah cracks off a volley from around 8 yards out, forcing the ‘keeper into a smart save, pushing the ball over the bar.
Gray is at it again a couple of minutes later, flinging a deep cross into the box. The Havant ‘keeper flaps at the ball in and it drops out on the left. Brake puts it back into the danger area. Watkins tries a shot but fails to make contact with the ball, which then drops to Fear on the edge of the box, but he blazes over the target.
There’s a brief lull in the action, but it’s still the U’s who control matters largely, with the visitors failing to make much of an impression. And on 23 minutes, a nest exchange of passes on the edge of the box gives Fear a sight of goal, but his low curling shot is just tipped away by the ‘keeper.
But despite this early control, Havant eventually find their feet and carve a couple of openings. Ex-Wimbledon man, Dean Holdsworth who has been almost totally anonymous up til now cleverly steps over a pass up the right touchline, fooling Matt Gray and allowing his colleague in the no10 shirt to leg it off up the field into space, but his advance is halted by a smart challenge from Gonsalves.
A break down the centre on 29 minutes finds an attacker in space and he hits a 25 yard drive on goal, but Iga is equal to it and dives to push the effort away for a corner. The Hawks have the ball in the net a few minutes later following a corner that Iga fails to deal with, it’s not cleared and the ball is looped back into the area and rebounds back off the crossbar before being bundled over the line. But the ‘scorer’ is adjudged offside by the lino and the goal is ruled out.
The rest of the half is seen out with little incident, but we’re still confident that the first home win is possible as we mooch round to the bar.
Again, like the first half, Sutton start the second in determined mood. Watkins testing the defence with a neat touch and bringing a very good tackle out of his marker inside the box. A Gray corner is soon causing problems, with the ball being returned quickly and finding Fear at the back post, but his hooked shot from an angle is beaten away by the ‘keeper for another corner.
Frustration grows as just past the hour, Watkins misses a superb chance to put his side ahead. A run from Corbett up the centre allows him to release the young striker clear behind the defence. With only the ‘keeper to beat, he draws him off his line and fires a low shot across him and agonisingly wide of the far post.
Thankfully, we take the next chance we get. A free-kick played in from deep on the right picks out Vansittart and his towering header loops over the ‘keeper and in under the bar.
About fucking time!
But, before we can consolidate on our breakthrough, lady luck deals us another kick in the knackers. A ball out to the right gives an attacker a sight of goal, Iga and Gray combine to shut him out at the expense of a corner and a good couple of minutes under treatment on the pitch having clattered each other in their defensive efforts. Matt is up first and seems ok, but Andy takes longer to find his feet and is moving very gingerly.
Gray is withdrawn injured soon after to be replaced by Stuart Booth down the right. The change is probably the worst thing that could happen for the U’s as the lively Gray has been keeping the Havant no11 rather occupied all afternoon, restricting his own attacking intentions. But now the more defensive Booth is in front of him, his increased involvement seems to unbalance the U’s defensive line.
With 12 minutes to go the defence fails to clear an attack and the ball is played back into the box from the left to the near post. But despite being well placed, the striker blazes high & wide of the target. Another poorly cleared threat a minute or so later calls our crocked ‘keeper into action when he’s forced to stop a low drive through a crowd from the right hand corner of his 18 yard box.
The visitors are now on top and we’re becoming increasingly worried that our slender lead won’t be enough to secure all the points. And so it proves.
With just 5 minutes remaining a long throw from the right causes problems for the defence. Once more they fail to clear their lines properly and the ball finds it’s way out to he right corner of the box. The resulting shot is anything but clean & crisp, bouncing down into the ground, beyond Iga and just sneaking inside the far post.
Naturally, eyes are rolled towards the heavens, expletives are muttered under the breath and 2 points evaporate right there and then.
The goal seems to prod a bit of life into the lads and they press for a late winner. With a couple of minutes remaining Brake plays a pass in from the left to Watkins, who lays off to Akuamouah. He’s shut out and helps the ball onto Fear on the edge of the box. But rather than drive in a shot, he tries a curling effort towards the far corner that drifts a yard or two wide.
But the best opportunity falls to Martin in injury time. A driven diagonal ball forward picks out a clever run from Taff. He controls and heads for goal with a defender in pursuit. With the ‘keeper dashing off his line he sizes to shoot, but delays that vital moment and when he does pull the trigger, the defender is close enough to get a foot in and deflect the shot just over the target.
Muttering about crap home records, we shuffle off down to the pub to try & at least salvage something from the day by getting some drinking practice in for Eastbourne.
And playing like this, methinks we’ll need our old pal beer to comfort us.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Matt Gray. Only player to really stand out apart from Watkins.
ENTERTAINMENT – 7. Better, but 2 points at home from 18 is starting to get worrying.
TEAM : Wilson, Gray, Scarborough, Gonsalves, Vansittart, Fear, Corbett, Brake, Akuamouah, Watkins, Martin. SUBS : Olusesi, Booth, Arkali
THE REFEREE’S………excellent! Jesus christ, they DO exist!!!!! Handled the game well, always in control, didn’t take any crap, well balanced and sensible decisons. See, I can be nice about officials!