Match Reports 2011/2012
Havant & Waterlooville 1
Chris Arthur (Noakes, 64)
Sahr Kabba (Jones, 78)
Keiran Weekes (Woodford, 46)
Mark Jones (Doolan, 87)
Charlie O Laughlin
Michael Thalassitis (Toomey, 46)
Graeme Montgomery (Hastings, 87)
It isn't often you get a final day of the season where nothing of any importance is left to be settled. Just stop for a moment and think back to this time last year – relive that match again, what images do you get in your mind?
So today may have been the most trivial match the Hawks have had for a good long time, but wasn't it nice not to be panicking? Indeed, apart from the three teams still deciding who was going to face who in the play-offs, the league was pretty much done and dusted. Farnborough's second points deduction this season meant that for the Hawks the only question left to settle was whether they'd scrape a top ten finish, or slip into eleventh. With so little at stake then it's odd that the game drew the third highest home attendance of the season.
As the match got under way it seemed Boreham Wood were much more interested in getting a result than the Hawks. Charlie Moone quickly cut in from the right to push the ball through the box and Michael Thalassitis was there to try and turn a shot past Clark Masters, but the keeper blocked the ball.
Minutes after that Masters took a free kick looped over the wall by Wood captain Mario Noto, while the Hawks seemed more intent to bask in the unusual presence of the sun.
The hosts finally got a chance after 13 minutes when an awkwardly bouncing ball eluded the Wood defence and Sahr Kabba cut in behind to pick it up. He drew the attention of keeper James Russell, who was unable to back track when Kabba passed to Ollie Palmer. The striker tried to bend a shot inside the back post, but Chez Issac kicked the ball off the line.
It's fair to say that was the only real chance the Hawks created in the half until they scored, which makes it also fair to say that it was entirely unfair that they did. Why? Well...
Ed Harris gave away a free kick just outside the box and Eddie Hutchinson managed to head Greg Morgan's ball behind the goal. From the corner Chris Arthur broke away for one of his long runs up the left, but Wood came back straight away and Masters blocked another well taken shot from Isaac by pushing the ball high into the air. When it dropped, Hutchinson managed again to put it out with a diving header.
It was starting to look desperate, and Masters again made a critical intervention when Morgan crossed from the left. The ball looked a dead cert for Moone unguarded at the back post, but the Hawks' keeper got a fingertip to it as it passed him to divert it just enough.
Isaac had two more chances as half time approached and it looked like a case of when rather than if Wood would score. Of course that was when the Hawks sucker punched them.
Arthur started it with one of those runs, which ended with Kabba on the left trying to find a way forward. He sent the ball back to the edge of the box and Palmer, rather than making a first time strike, tried to weave his way past his marker. That didn't work and the ball went back to KABBA, who smashed it straight through Russell with a venomous 12 yard drive. The referee blew for half time immediately after the restart.
Havant and Waterlooville 1
Boreham Wood 0
Given that for both sides the match held little value, the discussion at half time focussed mainly on the score down at Privett Park, and the possibility that local side Gosport Borough might just have snuck a play-off spot in the league below, which they eventually did.
The second half was a more balanced affair than the first had been with chances at both ends, never more so than two minutes from the hour when both keepers pulled off brilliant stops less than a minute apart.
The first came when Montgomery cracked the ball through the box from 20 yards. Masters had it covered before a deflection took it slightly away from him, but the keeper twisted in mid air to push the ball away.
The Hawks capitalised and Arthur yet again streaked away, taking the length of the pitch in his stride before crossing back to Christian Nanetti, who hadn't really featured in the game at all until that point. His close range shot should have beaten Russell, but the keeper shot out an arm just in time to push the ball up over the bar.
Palmer then saw another effort saved by the Wood keeper and Dan Strugnell, playing his last Hawks match if his Twitter feed is to be believed, headed a free kick into Russell's arms.
Montgomery tried again, forcing another save at the other end, before Kabba grabbed a back pass and tried to slot it past Russell, sending the ball past the post.
Montgomery was determined to rifle one in from range and tried a third long range effort that rose a foot over the bar, and with time running out Moone fired from the right and sent the ball squarely into the post.
Either side could have scored from any of the chances they'd had, but it took a moment of inspiration for the visitors to claim their goal. A late double substitution three minutes from the end of normal time saw Rob HASTINGS replace Montgomery, and when he came on he went directly to the edge of the Hawks' box. The ball was pumped straight to him, and with his first touch of the game he found the back of the net that had eluded the rest of his side for 87 minutes.
Five minutes of uneventful injury time followed, but with Sutton walloping Bath City 4-0 it mattered not a jot what the outcome of the Hawks' game was anyway. They started the day in tenth and finished there, sat on the edge of the upper echelons of the league table.
On reflection tenth place is pretty respectable after one of the most disrupted seasons at Westleigh Park for a good few years. Last August tenth place would have seemed a disappointment, by October a miracle, but now in April it seems about right. Does that qualify as a roller coaster season?
With hindsight, this season has to be seen as a prelude; a chance for an ambitious but largely untested new manager, dented by rejection from the football league, to steady himself and a side that was coping with anarchy on the pitch and a boardroom at war off it. But we've come through that. Names like Sean New, Stuart Ritchie and Jim Fallon are now consigned to the history books and Westleigh Park is set for an exciting opening act later this summer. Two defeats in the last fifteen games. Where do we go from here?