Match Reports 2012/2013
Havant & Waterlooville 1
Jake Newton (Taggart, 88)
Ryan Moss (Kabba, 56)
Sahr Kabba (Jones, 75)
Jordan Parkes (Cook, 82)
Craig Calver (Ledgister, 61)
Chelmsford’s recently revealed position as joint third favourites to win the league showed at least on paper what kind of opposition the Hawks could expect on their first competitive match under Stuart Ritchie. Having secured playoff places in three of the last four seasons, missing out in May this year by just four points to Basingstoke, the Clarets have been considered one of the league’s heavy hitters since their promotion to the Conference South in 2008.
And justifiably so. City are a club with the kind of organised, professional perspective that suggests the Blue Square South is just a stepping stone to greater things, albeit one that they’ve been stood on for several seasons longer than they’d expected.
Conversely no one knows what to expect from the Hawks at the moment, everything is fresh, new and ready to impress after a lengthy but informative pre-season. That means teams coming to Westleigh Park, even the mighty Chelmsford, have to be on their toes.
There were no surprises in Stuart Ritchie’s starting eleven. Llanelli last week gave the game away with the only change being Ryan Moss replacing an out of sorts Sahr Kabba. However with three goals in the last two games and a terrific turn of short burst speed, it could be argued that Kabba is best kept as a second half super-sub against tired legs anyway. Weston seemed to favour that approach.
The biggest problem both sides had to contend with was the incredible heat, which must have topped 30 degrees in direct sunlight as the game got underway. A quiet ten minutes followed as both sides tested the waters, with only a corner swung in by Christian Nanetti and punched clear by keeper Stuart Searle bringing the ball into either six yard box.
The Hawks then almost snatched an early lead when Steve Ramsey lofted a free kick forward from the half way line and the ball dropped through to Eddie Hutchinson, whose twisting header almost got the better of Searle from close range.
City were offering little in reply. Their game plan seemed to be to get the ball up the left as fast as possible to Ishmael Welsh for crosses back from the corner, and this indeed happened several times, however each ball into the box was claimed in the air by Clark Masters. On the other side of the pitch Jordan Parkes quickly became good at making a nuisance of himself, but the home defence left him no inroads into the box.
Which, it has to be said, brought about the oddest of sensations in the home supporter. Used to a defensive line over the last few seasons that would crumble even if huffed on, all of a sudden there lingers a crafty notion at the back of the mind that it’s alright if the opposition does attack because it’s nice to see a Hawks defence actually defending and doing it well. Whisper it in hushed tones folks, but we might just able to trust the defence with the ball again.
Craig Parker tried with a shot for City that was blocked in the box (see last paragraph) and then Jordan Parkes curled in a dangerous looking free kick that Masters got hold of (and again).
But at this point in the half it was the Hawks who were making the running. Nanetti seemed unlucky not to gain a penalty when sent sprawling by Max Cornhill after he’d tied the defender in knots, although from half a pitch away in the stand it’s never easy to tell. What does seem certain is that Nanetti’s reputation now precedes him with referees, which is going to make it hard to get a penalty even when they’re genuine claims.
Palmer quickly followed when he tore into the box at the end of a swift string of passes, but just as he was about to pull the trigger the ball was kicked away from him. Moss then followed with a second forward surge and fired across the goal and wide, and then missed a perfect chance when he rose to connect with a scything cross from Ramsey, heading wide.
City almost snatched a genuinely unlikely looking lead in the 37th minute when Aiden Palmer scooped the ball into the air as he chased into the box, straight into the path of Slabber, whose bullet header from ten yards was only just pushed over the bar by a moment of one-handed brilliance from Masters.
From the corner the Hawks broke quickly and astonished with another new era moment of awe and wonder. Palmer went on a staggering run the length of the pitch before over-cooking his chance and shooting into the side netting. Okay, so the end result was nothing to applaud, but how long has it been since the Hawks have even attempted to hit a team on the break and actually look threatening doing it? People rising out of their seats in anticipation? Surely not at Westleigh Park.
Havant and Waterlooville 0
Chelmsford City 0
But what had looked so good almost came undone two minutes after the break when City calmly took the lead. Aiden Palmer dropped a free kick across the box to the back, where it was poked almost along the goal line for SLABBER to turn home. It was devastatingly casual, and showed the new Hawks defence is not infallible, but it’s still early days as they say.
Parkes then cut past Chris Arthur and released a low drive that Masters had covered, and the Hawks keeper again saved well minutes later when Cornhill unleashed a tremendous volley from the edge of the box as the Clarets kept up the pressure.
Hutchinson headed a corner from Ramsey wide, and a better chance went begging when Nanetti’s cross eluded Searle’s grasp, but also Ollie Palmer coming in behind him.
Stefan Bailey matched Cornhill’s blast for power when he tried after a corner, but again the ball was blocked on the line and it looked as though the game was up for the Hawks. Injury time arrived, and as the headline writers were already preparing the ‘Brave, solid, but not quite…’ lead-ins, Palmer turned what was about to become a disappointing, but not disastrous, first run out against one of the league’s top sides, into a jubilant conclusion with the last kick of the game.
Chris Arthur’s ball forward dropped perfectly onto the striker’s chest, and controlling it, PALMER turned on the edge of the box to wallop a shot straight through Searle’s legs. Fast, decisive, and accurate shooting. Evidence already that this season is not going to be anything like the last.