HAVANT & WATERLOOVILLE – 2 [Holdsworth 8. Town 62]
SUTTON UNITED – 3 [Gray 1. p27. Akuamouah 64]
After the recent burst in form that’s seen the U’s climb away from the bottom 3, the last week has been tough. First a battling display against league leaders Grays in the Trophy ended ultimately in defeat. But at least there was something to cheer about. Unlike the terrible performance against Cambridge 3 days later. Still, we’d have the influential figures of Gray & Akuamouah back for the trip to Havant, so all is not lost.
As Havant is fairly close to Portsmouth and with our liking for spending weekends on the piss by the sea, this one counts. The less than seasonal time of year allows Windy to book some cheap and comfortable accommodation right in the heart of Portsmouth’s ‘Guildhall’ area. Which has got lots of pubs. And with him having spent his Uni years down here, they’re pubs that are familiar to him.
Sounds good to me!
Naturally an early departure is required to put us at the other end of the A3 in time for the pubs opening and Windy’s less than conservative driving style manages this without trouble. Sadly, the crew is much depleted for this jaunt with only myself, Windy, Chalmers & Mrs C in attendance. Still, it makes locating somewhere to kip easier. Having dumped our stuff, we head over the road into the Guildhall for a pint. Unfortunately, it seems most of the hostelries round here don’t open until 12. Naturally the local branch of Wetherspoons is serving, but it doesn’t allow football colours of any sort. Not even those of relatively small non-league teams from Surrey.
So, using Windys local knowledge gained from 3 years on the piss studying down here, we call up a cab (from the UK’s biggest mini-cab firm according to Windy!) and head into old Portsmouth down by the harbour. Here we have more success and enjoy a few beers in the Still & West, watching the ferries buzz in and out of the port. The construction of a space age looking Millenium Tower on the harbour looks strange in contrast to the 19th century Iron hulled warship, HMS Warrior, sitting below it. Bet the view from up there when it’s finished won’t be half bad.
A phone call summons another Pompey based U’s student and after a brisk stroll, a knackered looking and mildly hungover Chris wanders in. Soon the plan of staggering round to the Harbour station is abandoned as Chris kindly offers us a lift. Once he’s gone home for his car that is. Again making use of the cheap local cabbies, we get Chris back to his place and pile into his old white Nissan Micra. It certainly doesn’t look like it was designed to transport mildly pissed people like our good selves. Still, it does its job well and deposits us at the club a good 15 minutes before kick off. Right, cheeky half anyone??
A swift bevvy later to help ward off the cold and we head into the ground. What greets us is a very tidy, tight stadium. Not the new Wembley by any stretch, but it’s certainly an improvement on somewhere like Redbridge for example. As per normal, we choose the wrong end to stand and have to make our way round to the far end of the ground when the game kicks off. We’ve only made it three-quarters of the way there by the time Matt Gray has fired us into a very early lead. Joff wins a header on the left and nods infield for Akuamouah. He immediately switches the ball out to the right for Matt Gray, who is in acres of space. He makes his way towards the box, steps inside a challenge and cracks a shot that takes a slight deflection on it’s way into the bottom far corner. Fucking hell, give us a chance lads! We’ve still got to get the bloody flags up yet….
The hosts aren’t long in responding. A good cross in from the left is headed on goal from a central position, but Wilson is down to make the save to the left. We hit back straight away with Gray again involved. He plays a pass to the corner of the box for Vansittart, but he’s unable to make anything of it as he’s seemingly fouled. The ref waves play on though and the ball runs to Corbett, who forces a save from Howells with a low strike. Things remain fairly even, with Havant looking to use the flanks as much as possible. Another cross into our box, this time from the right, is headed out as far as the edge of the box where the no9 hits a drive high & wide of the target. Their next attempt is a little better though. A corner played in from the right picks out ex-Wimbledon man and Page3 model favourite, Dean Holdsworth, nipping in between 2 defenders at the near post to head into the far corner.
It takes us a couple of minutes to respond but after 12 mins, Honey finds Gray in his customary spot on the right. A low cross is driven to the near post that Akuamouah helps on. But Corbett behind him isn’t able to apply a telling touch and Howells is able to gather. On 23 minutes Wilson makes a rather bizarre save after a corner isn’t very well cleared. A shot is returned from 25 yards and the big U’s ‘keeper dives to push it away for a corner. Why though, we’re not too sure, as from our position at the far end, it looked like it was going a mile wide! Lose your bearings there for a mo Phil old son?
Just 4 minutes later and a major incident turns the game back in our favour. A Matt Gray corner from the left finds Corbett by the near post. His flicked header is on course for the back of the net until a defender pops up to volley it clear from under the bar. All eyes naturally follow the play now moving away from goal, but some of us catch sight of Kevin Hemsley going to ground at the far post and then receiving a hefty boot from Havant defender Robbie Pethick. Erm……did he actually just do what I think he did?
Thankfully it seems the ref has also seemingly caught sight of ‘something’ as well and brings play to a halt. He has a chat with Mr Pethick and looks certain to produce a red card. But he hesitates for a mo and trots over for a word with the lino who would’ve been right in line. Mr Lino appears to confirm that the ref did indeed see what he thinks he saw and the red card is duly produced. He also points to the spot.
Bloody hell and there I was thinking the Bobbins Billy Harding had the Gandermonium ‘Idiot of the year’ award all sewn up! C’mon Robbie, admit it. The family changed the surname by deed poll when you were little and added ‘Pe’ to the ‘thick’ bit didn’t they? Matt Gray steps up and makes no mistake, sending Howells the wrong way and rattling the penalty home.
Sadly, despite having the advantage of a goal and a man more than our hosts, we’re feeling a tadge uneasy. This anxiety can of course be traced back to our generally fucking pony record against teams with 10 men.
Just after half an hour, Wilson is called upon to preserve our lead, making a super one handed save at full stretch after we’ve allowed a bloke a bit too much time & space out on the right. He manages to work his way infield before clipping a shot in on goal from the corner of the box. It proves to be a rare threatening moment as the U’s see out the half on top and backed by our usual noisy selves, go looking for a third and possibly decisive goal.
Akuamouah tries the outrageous after a good run from Brake leads him to find Corbett making a penetrating dart to the left side of the Havant box. He turns and squares the ball for Ed, but his clever little backheel flick is too close to Howells and the ‘keeper saves. Gray tests the ‘keeper with a couple of minutes remaining in the half. Collectng a pass from Eddie, he again cuts inside before thumping a shot into Howells midriff at the near post. This is followed a minute later with Brake making the most of an overlap down the left to run onto a Corbett through ball, but his shot across goal takes a deflection and his only reward is a corner. Still, despite not managing to deliver that killer blow, the lads head in up at the break and we wander round in the light rain to the other end. We decide to brave the cold and don’t bother with a trip to the bar. Instead we take the time to get flags up and make the usual half time update phonecalls to all & sundry who aren’t present.
Hoping for a bright start to the second 45, we’re warmed by our first chance after the restart. Joff fields a pass and spreads it wide right for Gray. Matty attacks the box before pulling the ball back to the edge for Peter Fear in space. His clipped shot causes some confusion and despite calling loudly for the ball, Howells has it rather needlessly headed out for a corner right in front of his face by a defender. But, both sides then really drop into the routine of giving the ball away frequently, although we do it far more often than our hosts. Who incidentally, we’re starting to give far far too much time on the ball, allowing them to try & work gaps here & there. But, seemingly having weathered this little spell, we go and conceed an equaliser.
A Sutton corner puts the home defence under pressure and for a few moments, balls are rained in, half cleared and played back in again. One reasonable clearance finds John Scarborough 30 yards or so out from goal. He tries to play the ball back into the danger area, but only succeeds in finding Holdsworth. He immediately flings a ball upfield for their lone attacker to chase, Paul Honey is covering and looks to have got in front of his man to shield the ball back to Wilson only to be seemingly bundled to the ground by his pursuer. Unfortunately the ref has about as good a view of the incident we do and allows play to continue. To add insult to injury, matey’s first time effort clips the grounded Honey and loops goalwards over the stranded Wilson. Hemsley tries his best to clear, but he’s a fraction too late and the ball bounces up off the line and into the roof of the net. This is not good.
Happily, we’ve hardly had time to utter the phrase “Fuck me, we’re playing ten men for crying out loud!” before the U’s realise we’re playing ten men and hit back to regain the lead.
Another Havant attack breaks down in the box, with the home players & fans calling for the ref to blow for some sort of offence. Again though, he sees nothing wrong and waves play on. With the hosts a little flat footed and still half arguing the point, the ball is cleared to Fear in the centre circle. He makes the most of the Hawks overstretched state and slides a ball out to the left for Nigel Brake. He takes it to the byeline, drives it across the six yard box and Eddie Akuamouah arrives at the back post to crash the ball into the roof of the net. Despite their setback, Havant continue to stick with their passing and look for gaps wherever possible. It looks dangerous, but they really create little from quite a fair bit of possession. We’re meanwhile hitting on the break whenever possible.
79 minutes played and a Matt Gray corner from the right picks out a slackly marked Brake near the far post, but his almost-free header is wasted and he guides it the wrong side of the upright. Inside the last 10 minutes, the tricky no7 skips past Brake down the left and gets to the byeline, pulling the ball back across to the near post. A bit of a scramble ensues before Hemsley dives in to block a goalbound effort from 8 yards out, Gonsalves is on hand to clear the danger. Since Fear’s withdrawal for Craig Watkins, the strikers pace has been troubling the home defence. And with 5 minutes remaining, he has a great chance to kill the game off. Brake intercepts a poor clearance and immediately plays the ball behind the defence for Watkins to chase. With a defender on his tail and Howells off his line quickly, he does well to hit the target. Sadly, it’s the white upright ‘post’ part of the target he hits! Joff follows up the rebound, but he is stretching somewhat and only succeeds in scooping the ball straight into the arms of Howells. Corbett then also has a good chance to kill the match after the play is switched right to left and Brake knocks a pass along the edge of the area. But his curling effort catches the boot of a defender on it’s way to goal and loops just a fraction over the bar.
Despite there not having been a single stoppage for injury in the half, the ref somehow finds 5 minutes from somewhere to tag onto the end of the 90 and we spend most of this shitting ourselves, expecting an equaliser as the U’s give the ball away and fail horribly to clear their lines. The last throw of the dice for the hosts comes with a free-kick on the edge of the area. Darren Caskey lines it up, but his effort curled over the wall to the near post ends up in Wilson’s midriff and we manage to hang on for the points.
We loudly congratulate the boys on a hard won victory and thank Chris for the lift as he heads off back to Sutton for the remainder of the weekend, before removing flags and heading into the bar for a celebratory beverage or two. Slightly more than a beverage or two later a taxi back to the Hotel is procured and it’s a quick change for a night out on the town in Pompey. Before leaving, Windy & I choose to decorate our alotted room by clipping our wet flags to any available high surface to allow them to dry! Some scoff and a fair few beers later, we decide to extend our session by partaking in a classy looking establishment by the name of ‘Route 66’. Well, it wasn’t that classy really, but it was open late and the door staff were handing out umbrellas to stop you getting soaked by the rain waiting to get in! It’s a strange multi-floored affair and we eventually find ourselves on a balcony overlooking the main dance floor. Here, Windy & I set about trying to chat up the female population of Portsmouth, but after about a minute completely give up on the idea as the music in the place is ear bleedingly loud and even shouting into the ear of our intended target can’t be heard, so instead we hit the bar hard and concentrate on getting smashed instead. From our vantage point on the balcony we have a fine view of the writhing mass on the dance floor below and a couple who no doubt think they’re in a dark corner and can’t be seen, doing naughty things.
Three hours later, we’re stumbling out through a rapidly emptying Route 66, shrouded in dry ice. Either that or the gaff is on fire. Either way they’ve stopped serving at the bar, so we’re outta here.
So, who’s for mini golf in the morning?
MAN OF THE MATCH : Scott Corbett. Led from the front. Best game this season….
ENTERTAINMENT : 7. Some good footy from both sides
TEAM : Wilson, Gray, Scarborough, Hemsley, Gonsalves, Honey, Fear, Corbett, Brake, Vansittart, Akuamouah SUBS : Boosey, Nurse, Watkins
THE REFEREE’S A………actually not bad!! Handled the sending off well & never really let anything get out of hand. Definately one of the more competent officials we’ve encountered this season.