HAVANT & WATERLOOVILLE – 2 [Nightingale 45. McCallum 57]
SUTTON UNITED – 0
Well, it looks like that un-named club official wasn’t wrong, as come Sunday lunchtime following the Fisher defeat the texts start flying. It seems that Ernie has indeed parted company with the club following the previous day’s defeat, with the age old ‘Mutual consent’ being mentioned in the press release. My my. What a super campaign we’re having. Not only is it possibly the worst season in the club’s history, but with 5 games to go we’re now looking at installing our 4th manager. Fucks sake.
The fact that the previous four incumbents to those must have spanned about 35 years sums up what a thoroughly dogshit season this has been. At this rate, we’re going to rack up almost as many managers in the season as we have fucking wins.
The wondering quite who would be daft enough to take on such a job doesn’t last long, as by Sunday evening the club has followed up it’s earlier announcement with another regarding their new man in the not-quite-so-hot seat. And that man is Jimmy Dack.
So, it seems we weren’t that far off the mark with the daft comment then! That was a joke by the way Jim. It still happens once in a while round here, despite the cloud of utter misery currently hanging over the place. Welcome back to GGL mate.
Still, at least the bloke brings a bit of enthusiasm to the job. To say he’s keen as mustard is like saying Alex Ferguson hasn’t done badly at Man Utd. Then again, he’s not got bad credentials as a coach either, having held assistants positions at Fisher, Grays & Stevenage. And anyone who managed to survive working under Graham Westley has got to have something about them.
Sadly, though, there will be no new faces coming in to give us a last minute morale boost as Dacky’s appointment comes right before the 1st April signing deadline and he’s left with no time to persuade anyone stupid (or desperate) enough to come in and help try to make us look marginally less shit than we actually are. Oh well, at least with an enthusiastic new coach in charge we might at least get to see a little bit more life from the lads down at Havant at the weekend.
Instead of the traditional Pompey weekender, it’s decided that we really don’t have the heart for it and elect to have a good old fashioned Leo instead. Well, at least Windy & I elect to have a Leo. PC & his other half decide to stay in bed, having whinged about the 9am start due to having worked a shift at the club last night.
Couple of big tarts if you ask me.
So, it’s just me and the plastic Scotsman on the train down. Thanks to the sort of engineering works that have plagued away travel by train all this season, we’re forced to head down to Horsham and pick up a choo choo to Pompey from there. The train from Horsham is in a bit of a state and displays all the hallmarks of the mass evacuation of Portsmouth this morning as everyone headed up to Wembley for the cup semi-final with empty alcoholic receptacles of all shapes and sizes littering the carriage. So many are there, that the clear up crews who got on at Horsham are still tidying up as we pull into Pompey Harbour station! Chatting to the guard, he apparently had standing room only on a service out at about 6 that very morning “and everyone had a can in their hand”. Sounds like they’re going to have a jolly good day out then!
A brisk stroll round the Harbour later and we’re parked outside our favourite pub with a pint watching the world go by and the boats come in. A couple more later and we’ve discovered that the PC’s are on their way but will head straight to Havant as they’ll have nowhere near enough time to get into Pompey, have a drink and get back out again. Oh well, may I suggest we enjoy a stroll back to the station via the Old Customs House in Gunwharf Quays Mr Miller? Be rude not to I reckon.
Another pint later and it’s off to the station via a pasty shop spotted earlier. I elect not to experiment with their rather…..er….yummy sounding curried parsnip effort and go for the biggest cow based type product they have. None of that carrot nazi nonsense for me. I need soakage.
The train to Havant is quick & uneventful and once off, we go in search of the pub Chalmers has apparently camped in. Now, having never actually visited the town of Havant itself before, I can’t say we’re that impressed. A nice 70’s style parade of shops greets us as we come out of the station, with a roof covering long since deprived of it’s glass inserts offering ‘shelter’. The immediate impression presented is “Hayes, but with less litter and less pound shops”.
Better find this pub then. Which we currently don’t have high hopes for.
Eventually we find the establishment, unsurprisingly adorned with about 50 little Pompey flags fluttering in the breeze outside. Inside, PC & Kelly are watching the second half of the aforementioned cup semi, surrounded by blue clad locals. Thankfully, Mr Kanu has put them one up a short while ago and they’re in a good ‘accept weird non-league away fans’ mood. A few minutes behind us, Bob and Cathy wander in to join the festivities.
A pint is all we have time for before we head off towards the ground. Being the lazy bastards that we are and wanting to get a couple of beverages in before kick off, we decide to jump in a cab instead of doing the 15 minute walk. Windy also helpfully reminds the driver that we’re actually wanting the football ground and not the rugby ground, which is worthwhile as previous experience has taught us that the cabbies in these here parts are not that sure about the difference between the two.
We find all the usual faces in the bar, albeit with slight frowns no doubt about today’s impending doom and partake in a couple of cheeky refreshments before heading out into the sunshine for the proceedings to begin. Once more, the team changeslineups aren’t really that thoroughly investigated as we frankly can’t be arsed given it matters not a shite and we also figure it might be a nice surprise to see who Dacky has selected from those he has available. The one good bit of news is that Rob Hughes is nowhere to be seen. Which is a shame on one hand, as we were looking forward to perhaps seeing him get his kit dirty this week. The other is we’ll more likely have to wash the whole set now.
The opening salvoes are fairly even, with the home side looking the more competent. But we’re showing no little spirit and are at least giving it a go. In fact, Ottaway has a sight of goal after just 7 minutes when Dundas touches on a ball across the edge of the box from the left, but the youngster’s shot lacks power and fails to trouble the ‘keeper. It takes the Hawks some 12 minutes to muster their own opening effort on goal and to be honest, with a little more composure, really should be in front. A simple ball into the left channel sends their man clear, but bearing down on goal he elects to try & beat Wilson with power instead of simply lifting the ball over the U’s stopper who is well off his line, the shot being blocked by Phil’s legs.
Goodchild has a reasonable chance on 17 mins, darting through the middle onto a ball from the left that Steffan has flicked on in the centre. But with a defender breathing down his neck, he elects to take the shot early and directs it straight at the Havant keeper. A shame, but promising nonetheless.
A few minutes later, Dundas touches on a ball in from the right that Ball darts into the box after, but the ‘keeper reads it and is quick off his line to claim just ahead of the Sutton man. Havant then have a burst of activity shortly before the half hour, first Wilson does well to beat away a fierce free-kick awarded for handball on the right side of the box then straight after an attack down the right creates an overlap, but the opportunity is wasted with a shot across goal and wide of the far post. Another raid down the right follows soon after, but the angled effort doesn’t trouble Phil unduly and he makes a relatively easy save at his near post.
We continue to show plenty of effort and whilst not exactly dominating, we’re certainly in the contest. Ball again finds room for a header on 38 mins, guiding Ottaway’s useful cross from the left towards the far corner, but as before, the effort doesn’t quite have enough legs and the ‘keeper just gets across his line to dive and gather low to his left. Of course, all this effort and endeavour has got us being all hopeful and looking at getting into half time level for the first time in bloody ages when we go and get suckered right on the whistle. Our throw on the left is helped on across the field and suddenly we find ourselves somewhat short at the back. Goodchild tracks his man almost 70 yards, but can’t quite get across him quickly enough to shut out the ball low into the box and former Bognor man Luke Nightingale has the simplest of tap ins at the far post.
Once again, it’s just the one single moment of crapness that dumps us in the shit. All the more annoying as it usually comes after 10 minutes or so when you’re all but expecting it, not moments from the half time whistle when you’ve built up a modicum of hope and optimism. Still, there was plenty to be reasonably cheerful about as the lads head down the tunnel. The fact we’re not getting thumped will do for starters.
Having used a 3-5-2 formation in the first half, Jimmy tries something different for the second 45, withdrawing Ottaway and putting in Liam Wright to switch to a 4-4-2. The change doesn’t have an immediate effect and the hosts should extend their lead 4 minutes after the restart. Scooby gets sucked in and the ball is worked out left to a man in acres of space. All he has to do is tap in, but AJ desperately lunges across and somehow manages to deflect the ball up onto the bar, with Wilson gathering up the rebound.
Errr……anyone got an idea how that stayed out?
A couple of minutes later, we have a shout for a penalty after Ball has battled through on the right. His hooked cross into the box is won by Dundas and on the bounce the ball looks to strike the arm of a defender. Unfortunately, the ref nor the linesman see fuck all and we’re again left wondering when we’re actually going to get a bit of luck this season
Havant inevitably extend the lead on 55 minutes and frustratingly it’s again another breakaway from our attack that does the damage. After a bit of pressure around the box, play breaks down and a quick break is launched up the centre. The focus switches left and we allow the wide man far too much time on the ball, he slips the pass across the box and once more, the man is unmarked at the far post to draw Phil and slot home.
Despite the setback, the boys don’t fold and stick to the task and Goodchild is unlucky not to pull one back on the hour when Dundas pressures the home defence into a bit of a panic. First he chases down on the left and the ball is played back to the ‘keeper, but he panics and instead elects to dive to his left and push the ball away with Dundo looming. This effort goes a couple of yards to Jason, but his first time rising effort skips off the top of the bar. A couple of minutes later, Wright makes ground on the left and puts in a good ball across the face of goal. A defender just getting the slightest of touches to take the ball away from Dundas at the expense of a corner.
Understandably, the hosts ease off a little (which is understandable as everyone does that round about now against us these days. Why waste the energy?) and we get that little bit more space. With this, we press on looking for a goal our efforts probably deserve. On 73 minutes, a deep cross from the right causes problems. The ‘keeper comes to punch, misses, punches Steffan instead and the ball drops invitingly for Wright about 10 yards out. But as he goes to shoot, he slips and the chance is gone. More frustration!
Into the last 5 minutes and probably our best chance falls to sub Ouzo Opara. A free-kick from the left drops to the midfielder and his shot on the turn from a couple of yards out is somehow blocked on the line by a defender. The rebound runs out to El-Salahi and he puts the ball back into the box. It reaches Whisken on the 18 yard line and he hooks an effort across goal that flashes just wide of the far post.
The home side almost add a rather undeserved third to their tally at the death after some unorthadox defending from Mr Phil Wilson. He races out from goal to the right to cut out the ball knocked over the top that is chased down by ex-U Craig Watkins. The ball doesn’t run and Watkins emerges with it and we’re suddenly lacking a ‘keeper. Craig does the sensible thing and lays a pass into the box for a supporting colleague to roll into the empty net. Instead, he elects to amusingly blaze well over the keeper-less goal.
Watkins holds his head in his hands. Probably more because his mate has wasted a great opportunity for him to rip the shit out of former colleague Phil in the bar afterwards than of any failure to complete a comfortable 3-0 win. Well, I know I would be anyway.
So. That’s it then. We are now officially down. Relegated. Finito. Flushed. And considering that Maidenhead-Weston was called off, that makes it all that little bit more shit, but given the season we’ve had is probably about the right epitaph. Right, time to head into the bar and check out the big R next to our name on the table via Sky Sports News. It’s been a while.
We enjoy a few beers and having chatted with the locals somewhat (including the usual “You didn’t look that bad! We’ve played far worse!” stuff), we decide to head on back to civilisation and order cabs back to the station, despite many people telling us it’s only a few minutes walk we decide to stick with 4 wheels. Fuck off, we’re lazy and we’ve just been relegated with barely a whimper. We’re treating ourselves.
As we await our transportation, a couple of exceptionally pissed and excitable young locals come in, no doubt having been thoroughly celebrating Pompey’s Semi-Final win earlier and they proceed to do as much as possible to get a rise from us. Whether this is because they’re just pissed up (and fuck knows what other substances) idiots or are genuinely looking for a scrap we’re not sure. But they use the usual material like taking the piss out of the fact we’ve lost, the kit colour and one even resorts to calling us ‘scum’. Ordinarily, we might eventually kick back against such blatant twattery, but we’re really just not in the mood. And besides, a reaction from us is not necessary as a rather large local we’ve been chatting to & that the pair seem to know, gives them a thorough ticking off for being nasty to us on this the day of our relegation. There’s no apology though. Tsk!
Finally the cab arrives and as we depart, we notice one of our fellow sufferers appears to have ‘found’ a sign with ‘Sutton United’ printed on it from ‘somewhere’. I don’t want to know.
Somehow, when we arrive at the station, we find the sign carrying Sutton fan already there. Looking smug. Which means that Havant taxis must be the slowest in the world. Ever. On the platform, we raid the vending machine of crisps and choc. Then take advantage of an unexpected 20 minute delay by packing Windy off to the off licence in the high street for more travel refreshments. He makes it back just in time and having waved off the sign carrying Nick, we’re on the way home ourselves.
Naturally, having polished off the offy supplies and still being able to remember the day, everything ends with a visit for a couple of pre-closing pints at the Hood back in Sutton to try and help further dull the disappointment of another wasted Saturday. Despite this, even inebriation can’t quite take the edge off the misery.
Ladies & gents. I give you, the Ryman Premier Division.
MoM : Tony Cuff. Solid full debut. Another promising prospect from the ressies
TEAM : Wilson, Cuff, Whisken, Scarborough, El-Salahi, Greene, Ottaway, Goodchild, Ball, Dundas, Bray SUBS : Wright, T.Hughes, Opara, Johnson, McLoughlin