Match Data 2000/2001
Havant & Waterlooville 5
Liam Daish (Cook, 72)
David Leworthy (Taylor, 82)
Neil Champion (Jones, 80)
Who reading this hasn’t been anxiously glancing out of the window at any given opportunity over the last few days? It was looking good yesterday, fine all day despite the protestations of the weathermen, but that constant fine drizzle was back again this morning no doubt causing the phone at the club to ring off the hook through lunchtime. The question of whether the match was on or not eventually dragged on all the way through to three minutes past three as Referee Mark John, who had been held up in traffic, made a final pitch inspection before an expectant and vocal crowd. It looked bleak, every attempt he made to bounce a ball on the pitch failed but as he departed for the dressing room the thumbs up was given and a ripple of appreciative relief lifted the stands.
Really not knowing what to expect from this game my pre-match prediction of a 3-1 home win turned to a postponement at the 40 minute mark as it kicked off and the ground immediately began to cut up. Determined to make the best of it though both teams opened with vigour and Weymouth’s Darren Rowbotham was the first to take a shot, just wide, from a very early chance. With seven minutes gone Dean Blake, in for the ill Tim Hambley, provided the first of many inspirational midfield runs giving Jamie O’Rourke the ball for a super unmet cross. A Minute later, after an unexpectedly quick Weymouth substitution, he did it again, this time putting Dave Leworthy in front of an open goal. Instead of banging the ball home though Leworthy opted to draw the ball back across goal to Jamie, who evidently not expecting the pass lost the opportunity.
It was great to see that given the conditions neither side resorted to ‘hoof it and run’ tactics (no, honestly Mr Lilywhite). Weymouth’s considered and quick build up play provided them with two easy chances in the space of a minute, both of which were spurned by Lee Phillips and David Laws putting the ball a whisker either side of the goal. Dave Leworthy though was on target at the other end of the pitch as a Ben Price cross fed to him via Jamie left Danny Potter with little hope of stopping him getting his seventh goal in five games.
So after initially looking like Weymouth were going to pin us back the passing combination of Price, Blake and Leworthy started to look devastatingly effective as several chances repeatedly threatened the Terra’s goal. Working the right of the pitch Paul Wood drew applause for some very clever trick play with Gary Connolly but it was eventually Jamie who got a foot to the ball for our second after a frantic goalmouth scramble. Dave Leworthy had been on hand to collect the ball inside the six yard box after his marker slipped and missed the incoming cross, Dave’s shot bouncing into a pile of bodies on the goal line off the post.
Amid some confusion only two minutes later the Terras scored their one goal of the game, direct from a free kick taken quickly by Darren Rowbotham while we were still assembling a wall. Had the referee blown for the game to proceed? Either way, the fuss he made of a kick we had later in the second half in the same position denied us any chance of making an equally sneaky response. However before half time we regained the two goal lead courtesy of a super lob from Gary Connolly. It may have been intended as a cross, it doesn’t matter, all that does is that the ball gracefully floated over Potter who could only just get his hand to it before falling into the back of the net after it.
The second half contained all of the excitement of the first. Both teams were aware that the conditions meant a two goal lead could be lost just as swiftly as it had been asserted and the suprisingly sprightly football flowed again both ways. Substitute Mark Gammon forced a good save from Nicholls and Leworthy with another attempt at a lob saw me on my feet before realising the ball had slipped just over the bar. 58 minutes in though Jamie slotted the ball deftly past Potter for his second after another super build up from Blake and Leworthy. Rowbotham and Laws though kept the game interesting, both again missing near open goals as they had done in the first half.
Matt Jones arrived on the pitch for Champion in the 80th minute, an unfamiliar face these days but speaking personally one much missed for his crunching midfield tackling abilities. Obviously eager to make a name for himself just two minutes later the ball found its way to him twelve yards from goal and a well placed shot put us four goals out of Weymouth’s reach.
Obviously today it would be easy for Weymouth to come away from West Leigh blaming the conditions for their defeat, but I would hope at least for recognition of some of the best midfield play I’ve seen us put together this season, from Dean Blake especially. Had the Terra’s numerous missed opportunities been goals, especially the two which would have put them 2-0 up after 12 minutes, it may have been a much closer affair. As it was Nicholls unusually had little to do and we can take the prize of being the only team so far this season to beat Weymouth home and away. We are the only team to have taken three points from the Wessex Stadium in the season to date, for which it is recognised as a daunting fortress to visit. Can we now think of West Leigh Park in equal terms having won seven of nine home matches?
Another great result then. Nine goals in two games. Our current form over the last ten puts us on an equal footing with Burton Albion, and our goal difference stands out a mile from those around us. Having leapt up four places today we’re back knocking on the door of the top ten, where I believe our rightful league place is. I just hope now that the weather gives us a chance of getting some of the fixture backlog out of the way so we don’t face the sort of madness we had at the end of our last season in the southern division.
In other news, the Hants Senior Cup Semis are now shaping up, our game on Thursday against Farnborough being the last remaining Quarter. When we progress we will be facing Eastleigh, Lymington and New Milton or Andover on the last stop on the road to the final at (I believe?) the Dell. A pity that the Islanders have eluded us again by losing to Lymington (and how!). Perhaps next season we’ll get a chance to face our nemesis again.