I’m Sorry I Havant a Clue

Match report by ALAN ESSEX

Havant & Waterlooville 1 Pools 2 (National League)
Saturday 01 September 2018
West Leigh Park

I have to admit I don’t know much about Havant and / or Waterlooville. Whereas for the last 2 away games I can boast that I’ve lived near to both Braintree and Dagenham and still visit both of them, all I can say is that I once went to Portsmouth which is apparently close. Therefore, I don’t know who the major employer for the area is, or in fact if they have one.

The stadium, West Leigh Park is another homely ground with low terracing to 3 and a bit sides with one stand that holds 562 seated. The capacity is 5,250. Like the Braintree ground you can walk around the ground and watch the game from wherever you want. The ground was used by Havant Town from 1982 and then when they combined with local rivals Waterlooville FC in 1998 the new club continued to use this ground whilst Waterlooville’s Jubilee Park was sold for development – a familiar story for those that have read the Dagenham and Redbridge report. (It’s a familiar story even if you haven’t read the report.)

In lower league terms Havant and Waterlooville’s rise has been quite dramatic. They have gained two consecutive promotions having won the Isthmian League title in 2016/17 and winning the National League South title on goal difference over Dartford to secure a place in the fifth tier of English football for the first time in their history.

Pools were unchanged for the fifth game in a row – I cannot remember this ever happening before – that might just be my memory though. It does signify that the team were experiencing a successful run. Three successive wins, unbeaten in four, unbeaten away and just one defeat in the opening 7 games. In contrast Havant and Waterlooville had won just one game and drawn three but were unbeaten at home.

But don’t let this good run whilst playing some very enjoyable football let us get carried away. We played very poorly today and were a little fortunate to get a result. Muir and James were very subdued, James often bundled off the ball and Muir having to play a little deeper. Havant and Waterlooville were very disciplined in their approach and especially their defence, reminding me of Pools when managed by Mick Wadsworth.

As a result, the game was a scrappy one with little possession football and longer balls dealt comfortably by both defences. This meant that Kitching and Donaldson rarely got the opportunity to venture forward and the game was played mostly in the middle third. As it happened at the other end of the pitch it was difficult to see clearly how our first penalty was awarded other than it was a result of a Noble free kick in to the area to Anderson who went to ground, obviously as a result of a foul as the referee gave a penalty. Noble took this and placed it well in the bottom left, sending the keeper the wrong way, this was in the 25th minute. Shortly afterwards Kioso was booked for an enthusiastic tackle – he was again having another excellent game and must be the signing of the season.

Havant and Waterlooville responded with several good attacks down the wings but Loach’s handling was good in taking the crosses cleanly. This was Loach’s 350th professional game, so well done to him and let’s hope he has many more.

Early in the second half Kitching had a good opportunity to score from a header but it went wide, he should have done better as he was not being closely marked and followed a good build up and cross from Donaldson who has continued to impress me since being recalled to the side this season. His work rate and effort cannot be faulted.
"fortune and good luck, whilst not playing at your best is a good pointer to being a successful side."

The game continued in the same vein as the first half with some wild shots from the hosts and some desperate defending from Pools. One shot, held by Loach was claimed by the home side to have crossed the line but the referee said otherwise.

However, with seven minutes of normal time remaining Woodford, a half time substitute for Havant and Waterlooville, looped a good header beyond Loach for the equaliser. This spurred Havant and Waterlooville on and they were clearly on top now. A good headed opportunity had Loach well beaten and seemingly going into the net only to be cleared on the line by the dependable Donaldson.

It looked like the best we could hope for was to hold on for the draw. But with football you can never tell and deep within time added on Kitching was tripped just inside the penalty area. It was not a bad foul but contact had been made – had Kitching got the ball it is doubtful anything would have come of it – other than the penalty we hadn’t had any shots of note on target during the whole game. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and to their credit Havant and Waterlooville did not overly object. Noble again took the penalty and sent it to the keeper's left approaching the top corner of the net.

So, 2-1 to Pools, rather fortunate on the run of play but fortune and good luck, whilst not playing at your best is a good pointer to being a successful side. Hopefully in the future we can play with greater flair and fluency and still win but I’m sure everyone will take the victory however it comes.

There were 279 Poolies in attendance out of a total crowd of 1272, another great turnout.

Just a quick word about the area. As my wife has friends close by we stayed overnight. What a great area Havant, Emsworth, Chichester and is and well worth a visit. Mind you, warm sunny weather and a victory make everything seem better.

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