Match Data 2001/2002
Havant & Waterlooville 3
Southern League Premier Division - Sat Mar 16, 2002
Games like this are stuff of footballing legend. One of the more popular Friday night debates among football fans holed up in a local tavern of choice is that of what constitutes the formula for the perfect football match. The right mixture of excitement, trepidation, disappointment and ultimately elation felt while watching a team of choice perform on the pitch. When asked myself, I choose to regale willing audiences with the tale of the League Cup encounter with Dorchester, in which the Hawks came from behind twice to best the Dorset side 4-3 just as the Referee was raising an eyebrow at his watch and looking at the penalty spot.
I should think now though that yesterday’s match with Weymouth could be added to the short list. There’s no love lost between the Hawks and the Terras, everyone knows that. Where time has failed to heal previous rifts, more recent arguments (namely over kick off times conflicting with England games this season) have again stirred a tension between the sides that always serves to fuel terrific encounters on the pitch. Back in October, Tim Hambley’s single goal brought back three points from the Wessex Stadium, and there was no doubt that from the off Weymouth were looking to level matters by claiming an away win themselves.
The game started at breakneck speed, the Hawks in full flight and giving every indication that the recent run of fine form was set to continue. The Terras showed no sign of cracks in the side, financial woes having lead to the loss on loan of super-striker David Laws to Newport IoW as well as compatriot front man Lee Phillips to Newport County. The Hawks had already encountered departed goal keeper Danny Potter, now playing for Chelmsford, in the week, and his replacement Paul Payne came under heavy fire as the Hawks dominated the opening fifteen minutes of the game.
Gareth Hall lifted the ball through to Super Jim Taylor in the seventh minute, who earned a free kick as he head wide, and Hall again put the ball forward deep into the box for Jamie O’Rourke to head down neatly onto the outstretched boot of Tim Hambley. His shot though flew narrowly over the bar. Moments later as the Hawks thundered forward again, O’Rourke squeezed the ball just outside the post with a lofted shot that fell across Payne’s outstretched arms. A corner from Chris Ferrett was headed wide, and Gareth Hall also missed his target from 30 yards after Taylor rolled the ball back to him from the area.
Heavily pinned down, Weymouth none the less were playing excellent defensive football. Looking for breaks where possible, the notable skills of Mark Robinson got the team forward for just the second time in the game at the fifteen minute mark. His bid to cross to Michael Dean in the box however was cut short by Liam Daish. Dean struck the resulting corner well, and the ball rebounded from the goalmouth pack to Alex Browne, who with an unobscured view of the net fizzed wide of the post.
The Hawks’ domination somewhat surprisingly proved their undoing just two minutes later. With the back line moving well up the pitch as the home side surged again, Robinson spotted Kevin Parker making a break and dummied Shaun Gale before setting the striker on his way. With just Nicholls to beat the visitors astounded the home fans with an opening goal that came totally against the run of play.
In the 20th minute they almost did it again, Parker showboating his way round Hall with a 360 degree spin that set Robinson free for a shot that Nicholls did well to block. Seconds later Robinson was at it again, this time connecting with a precision 50 yard pass from Simon Browne that highlighted the frenetic but accurate pace of the match. The home keeper once again made the critical save.
At the other end, Hambley found an opportunity to turn and half volley a shot that Payne jumped to stop, and Taylor scuffed a cross from O’Rourke in the goalmouth leading to a pile up that brought cries from the terraces as the Hawks failed again to find the net.
Slipping about in the midfield mud Weymouth gained the upper hand again with yet another snatched through ball from Robinson. Picking out Parker the visitors near duplicated the first goal with another perceptively worked forward charge. It was a moment of amazement for the home side. 2-0 down after one of the best played opening half hours of the season, things looked bleak indeed as half time approached.
James Taylor however had other ideas. A minute before the break he hammered home a cross from Chris Ferrett as the ball dropped neatly to him over Jamie O’Rourke’s head and the cup final atmosphere returned in abundance for the start of the second half. Ian Hutchinson saw a shot fly wide as he slipped the Hawks’ back line, and Darren Rowbotham set up substitute Martin Underhay for a shot that skewed out of the ground. Neil Davis saw a chance go begging for the Hawks as he tried to trap rather than volley a precise square pass from Daish, and Hambley send a free kick over the wall and over the bar.
Simon Browne brought down O’Rourke for a free kick by Ferrett that John Waldock cleared just before it could reach Taylor and Daish in the six yard box. Gareth Hall latched onto the free ball, but again shot over. Underhay showed further speed as he ran onto a flick from Rowbotham and the home fans suffered a heartstopping moment as the ball pinballed in the area before finally coming free.
Super Jim bagged his second of the afternoon, and the equaliser, in the 68th minute. Tim Hambley head the ball forward to him, and going to ground to hit the half volley sent the ball into the roof of the net again. Nicholls made two more dramatic saves from forward runs by Parker, the first deflecting off Dean Blake to provide an awkward curling ball. Jamie O’Rourke came close with two chances, and the combined efforts from Rowbotham, Parker, Dean and Underhay for Weymouth sustained the end to end action at a phenomenal pace.
With the game still very much up for grabs, the terraces roared ten minutes later as Super Jim’s celebratory dive across the penalty area signalled his hat trick, and 30th overall goal of the season. Neil Davis had brought the ball forward to the edge of the area and put it out to the corner flag for O’Rourke to send back into the goalmouth. Taylor walloped the ball home with glee, and assumed the crown of the League’s leading scorer in the process.
The game remained in contention right to the final whistle. Weymouth refused to relent, and the Hawks sustained shots from the visitors with truly amazing saves from Nicholls. For the Hawks, O’Rourke got onto the end of a ball from Taylor but was tackled well by Waldock as he squared up to the goal, and he again saw a shot cleared by Hutchinson in the dying moments. The closest the Hawks came to a fourth however was Tim Hambley’s shot just before the whistle, saved by Paul Payne’s outstretched arm after Hambley had tricked his way through the box.
The match was something to behold, and no amount of verbiage here will do it justice. Suffice to say that both teams gave terrific accounts of themselves, and the 594 present witnessed a match that far outweighed the six pound admission fee to the ground. Days like that are what makes being a football fan something really special, and I for one was glad to be a witness to it.
Hopefully riding high on this success the Hawks next face an away encounter at Privett Park in Gosport on Tuesday night for the second leg of the Hants Cup semi final. Taking a 2-1 lead into the encounter, the Hawks will no doubt still have work to do to pass the final test on the way to facing Newport or Aldershot at St Mary’s Stadium. Newport lost the first leg of the other semi final 2-0 at Aldershot’s ground last week, and will face a tough test getting back into the tie on their own turf next week.
Super Jim claims the match ball
Scuffles on the heavy pitch
Underhay and Daish up for the ball
Price turns outside Hutchinson
Ferrett fends off Rawlinson
Another Hawks corner
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