Monday, 30 April 2012

A Drizzly Day in Havant

Just like Showaddywaddy under the moon of love.
They said it was the biggest match in Havant & Waterlooville's history. They said it was bigger than the FA Cup 4th round game at Anfield four seasons ago when the Hawks grabbed the mighty elephant of Liverpool FC in their talons, lifted it into the air and ripped into its leathery flesh to lead 2-1 at one point. Bigger than the tussles against Swansea City in the previous round which took them to their most famous match. Bigger than the two-legged FA Trophy semi-final against Tamworth. Big with a capital B!

So it must have been important. Why? Because Havant & Waterlooville had to win to avoid relegation to the Southern League. Never relegated in their fourteen years of joint existence, the shame in the twin towns of 'Avant and 'Looville would have been immense. A summer of tear-stained misery awaited, trying to work out where on earth Barwell and Arlesey are. A point above Maidenhead, and two above Hampton & Richmond at kick-off, it also happened that a draw might have been enough if their rivals failed to win (and Hampton would also have had to win by six clear goals away from home to overtake them). But a win would make absolutely sure that summer 2012 would be a happy one.

It had rained all week, but the day of the match was merely drizzly. However, the groundsman - with his fork and his curious roller-with-squeegee-attachment - was still the busiest man in the ground before kick-off. With the visitors being the pond-loving Swans (the Staines Town version, rather than the more well-known Swansea City this time), it was crucial to remove as much surface water as possible, and he did a grand job.

It was a riveting match. Staines scored twice in the first half, but so did the Hawks. The home team also hit the bar and missed a penalty. With Maidenhead beating local rivals Eastleigh at half-time, Havant & Waterlooville were heading downwards. But they had battled for every ball - they may not have won the school prize for achievement this term, but every time I've seen them, they've been a shoo-in for the £5 book token for hardest triers.

There was hope a-plenty going into the second half. Havant had swarmed around the Staines goal like hungry nuthatches around a bird feeder full of Buggy Nibbles for the entire first half, and when a Staines defender was sent off ten minutes in to the second, the hope became overwhelming. At this point in the match, Maidenhead were losing 3-2 to Eastleigh, so the Hawks were staying up with a draw.

Nobody bites fingernails any more. Instead, fingers are used to caress the internet-connected pocket gadgets which have replaced transistor radios at football. These gadgets are the bringers of glee one minute, and despair the next. With 900+ people fidgeting, hopping from one foot to the other, nervously eating chips or tapping away at their phones, the last minute of injury time arrived without any further goals. It was at this point that the twitterers in the crowd let it be known that Maidenhead had scored in the last minute of their match to win 4-3. All hope had been sucked out like Harry Potter having a bad day with a dementor. The Hawks were on their way to Arlesey Town next season...

...and then Joe Dolan broke the back of the net with a screamer from ten yards. Or at least, it felt like a screamer, as that's what happened next...screaming, yelling, boisterous, bundling pandemonium. Pompey fans will remember the feeling when Darren Anderton scored in the FA Cup semi-final in 1992 with seven minutes to go - this was the same.

John Peel once said that he had to listen to forty or fifty records before he came across one that gave him the shivers. This season, Hawks fans have had to suffer the football equivalent of forty-odd Olly Murs and Nicki Minaj tunes. The last kick of this match was New Rose, Teenage Kicks and God Save The Queen all coming along at once. A once in a lifetime proper PUNK ROCK moment.

The match video is here. The match report from The News is here. From the Hawks' unofficial site here. From the blog formerly known as Dub Steps here. From Ade Oakley's blog here. A photo of the winning goal here.

A roller with a squeegee attachment was used at Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday.
It rained this week.
Christian Nanetti waits to take a penalty.
The linos needed long studs at Westleigh Park.
Goalmouth action minutes from the end.
The muddy Hawks heroes clap the fans.
More than one side of A4 needed for this five star match report!


  1. Just stumbled across your blog, however, I'm a little bit gutted because I was going to do exactly what you're doing next season! Maybe I'll still do it though.

    Great read though, look forward to seeing some more reports next season.

  2. No worries Anonymous! The more the merrier! Let me know if you decide to go ahead and I'll link your blog. It'll be interesting to read about all the grounds I've already been to, plus the ones I haven't yet - assuming you were intending to "do" Hampshire anyway. It's been very enjoyable so far, so I'd recommend you go ahead.

  3. Excellent stuff and cheers for the link to my retitled blog

  4. Great report which captures the day very nicely indeed. It was an absolute cracker of a game with its last minute drama. I'm planning on blogging about the nether reaches of non-league next season too (H&W being my 1st outing in that capacity) and will mainly be in the Hampshire area so may well cross paths with you.

  5. Row Z, have you changed your name from Anonymous, or was that someone else? ;-) I'll link to your blog and visit whenever you update - I look forward to reading about your trips next season.

    Skif, I'm a regular reader of yours. Destination Havant... is always an excellent read. I think we may both have used the word "pandemonium" for the Joe Dolan goal, but then what other expression could we have used?

    Once I've finished the hopping, I intend becoming a regular at Westleigh Park, so I hope the Hawks have a good season in 2012/13, but that they wait until the following year for the BIG ONE! Championships, 100+ goals, surging, raucous crowds and pandemonium every single match! Can't wait!

  6. No, Anonymous is someone else - so there may well be three of us wandering the darkest reaches of Hampshire football next season!