Match Data 2011/2012
Havant & Waterlooville 3
Paul Hinshelwood (Ryan, 72)
Steven Ramsey (Igoe, 82)
David Wheeler (Plummer, 87)
Kyle Vassell (Nwokeji, 76)
Tom Kavanagh (Charles-Smith, 87)
Despite assuring their own safety last week, the Swans were intent on relegating the Hawks and took an early lead through Ali Chaaban, before two goals less than sixty seconds apart saw the Hawks equalise and then fall behind again. Ollie Palmer’s shot off the post put the sides level at half time, and when Jeffrey Imudia was sent off eleven minutes into the second half, the Hawks went all out to try and force a winner.
One change to last week’s side saw Palmer replace Sammy Igoe in the starting eleven, switching the side to a vital attacking stance on their own turf - although turf may not quite describe the sodden pitch the ground team had worked miracles on to keep playable.
Knowing a win was the only way to be absolutely certain of avoiding relegation, the Hawks were quick out of the blocks and after Steve Ramsey drove a shot over the bar, Christian Nanetti cut in from the left to force Swans keeper Danny Potter into a point blank save.
Sam Pearce then tried when he got onto a Ramsey free kick, but his effort was deflected away, and Ramsey then put the ball in again to Palmer just ten yards out, but three yellow shirts blocked his path and is chance to shoot.
But as had been the case with the last two home games against Dover and Basingstoke, this early attacking play led to the visitors hitting the Hawks on the break, and sure enough the hosts fell behind around the twenty minute mark for the third time in three home games.
This time it was CHAABAN who sidestepped his marker with a through ball and almost in slow motion had time to compose himself before planting a shot past Dan Thomas.
The striker then immediately scored again after the restart, but this second effort was ruled out for a narrow off-side.
But a fourth consecutive 1-0 defeat was the last thing this game promised, and the Hawks went level and then behind again in the space of 60 seconds. Chris Arthur’s left wing run ended with a beautiful cross that Potter was reluctant to come for, and Scott JONES capitalised perfectly with a glancing header that put the ball beyond the keeper’s reach.
The celebrations were short lived however. Straight from the restart the Swans surged forward and Kyle VASSELL managed to squeeze off a shot before Thomas could reach the ball. Agonisingly, it trickled forward over the line with Arthur unable to get back fast enough to kick it away.
Nanetti made a bid for another quick equaliser when his wickedly curling free kick looked like it might bend inside the post, but instead it bounced out off the bar.
The nimble Italian was then given a golden opportunity when he got the better of Imudia in the box and the defender’s lunging tackle sent him straight to the ground. He stepped up to take his own penalty, having won no less than three games for the Hawks with penalty kicks this month already, and promptly smashed the ball wide of the post.
Ramsey’s cross to Jones ended with a downward header that bounced up into Potter’s hands, and Vassell should have added another for Staines when he raced through the home defence but curled his shot over the bar.
Three minutes from the break the Hawks ensured a level playing field for the second half when Jones put the ball across the box from the left and Ramsey pushed it back into the middle. Unmarked, PALMER’s sweeping shot connected perfectly and sent the ball spinning into the net off the inside of the far post.
Before the break Nanetti saw another shot saved, and Ramsey lifted a free kick over the bar.
Havant and Waterlooville 2
Staines Town 2
The half time scores revealed that with Maidenhead and Hampton both winning, a draw would not be enough to keep the Hawks in the league and a nervy second half got underway with David Wheeler volleying wide for Staines.
Another curious home match trend continued when in the 56th minute the opposition had a man sent off for the third game in a row. This time Imudia’s obvious hand ball drew the attention of the referee, and having already given away the penalty in the first half he was dismissed with a second yellow.
Looking to capitalise, the Hawks went in search of a third goal and Nanetti could have tried for it when he was put through by Jones, but instead of shooting he tried to turn his man and lost the chance.
Match winner Dolan then made an attempt himself with a shot that went high after a corner, and the Hawks saw another chance go begging when Jake Newton’s cross was sent at Potter with a header by Jones. The keeper lost hold of the ball, but as it bounced free there was no one there to turn it home.
Nanetti curled another free kick round the wall, but Potter got behind it, and a further free kick for the Hawks fell to substitute Perry Ryan, whose shot deflected straight into the oblivious Potter.
The effort was certainly there, and the hosts were denied yet again when Palmer’s excellent shot sent Potter into a flying one handed save.
By this point the news had filtered through the wires that Eastleigh had taken the lead at Maidenhead and then let them equalise, and although Hampton were beating Thurrock as expected, as matters stood on the edge of injury time the Hawks would be safe on goal difference alone. The board went up for three minutes of added time.
The unbearable tension rolled on and then as the match at Westleigh Park reached the 92nd minute, Maidenhead scored at York Road.
So the incalculable volume of permutations of possible table positions debated by Hawks fans over the last three months, slowly whittled down to a handful after Hampton’s defeat on Tuesday, ultimately came down to one simple fact: the team that had struggled through twenty defeats and eleven draws this season, with frustration and heartache suffered on a scale never witnessed before in their combined history, had sixty seconds to score a goal. That alone would keep them in the league.
What were the chances?
How the ball reached Dolan is lost in the euphoria that followed his goal, but passing through the middle, a final attempt saw the Hawks come forward in force and a through ball reached him on the right of the box. He slid, connected, and with the most important debut goal in Hawks history, prodded it past Potter before being lost under a pile of ecstatic players.
The terrace exploded. The stand stood as one. Were there fireworks? I’m sure there were fireworks.
So having lurched to the finish line with a great escape that stalled for three straight defeats, the Hawks edged out of the relegation zone by a point with seconds to spare and can now turn to face a far brighter future.
The previous regime that brought the team to the edge of disaster is over, a new manager will take the reigns next week, and with a financially buoyant club off the pitch and exciting visions promised by new Vice-Chairman Jim Fallon, the Hawks can rest assured that from here on in, the only way is up.