17/03/19 : Mens 1 vs University of Birmingham
Away - University of Birmingham P1
Won 4 - 3
Havant retained their 4 point lead at the top of the table, with a hard fought game in the Midlands. A victory next weekend against Chichester at Havant College will see Havant West Conference league champions.
A gutsy display from the Men’s 1s against a physically strong and fit Birmingham side saw them edge a seven goal thriller and maintain their four point lead at the top of the National Conference West table.
After a hail storm delayed the start for twenty minutes, Birmingham started the stronger and it took several minutes for Havant to get on the ball and string a few passes together. For all their pressure, Birmingham only won one penalty corner in this period, which Maciej Pacanowski deflected away with a strong left hand. At the back Chris Smith and Jonathan Pickett were strong and decisive in the tackle keeping the Birmingham forwards well shackled.
With the front three, led by the effervescent Charlie Stubbings, working hard to keep the Birmingham defence on the back foot, the visitors started to create chances of their own. A first penalty corner for Havant was slammed against the left upright by Federico Bertoni and then Stubbings himself found the net, only for the umpire to spot an infringement.
Havant took the lead in the 21st minute when Stubbings intercepted a cross field pass and drove hard into the circle. The chance at first seemed to have been wasted but Mike Deller-Merricks was on hand to force the ball home from short range.
Birmingham continued to pile on the pressure, with their captain, Adam Harriman, the main influence. Within eight minutes they were ahead. In the 25th minute Cuthbert Shepherd forced the ball home at the far post and then two minutes later, from their second penalty corner, Christopher Way beat the outstretched right hand of Pacanowksi. There was still time before half time for Havant to create their own chance; this time Ethan Hoddle’s shot ricocheted off the other post with the keeper well beaten.
As we’ve seen all season, this Havant team may sometimes be down, but they are never out. In another ding dong half, the game turned in the 42nd minute. When a Birmingham penalty corner broke down, the ball was hit away and the home side found themselves down to ten players for five minutes. Havant took full advantage, forcing two penalty corners, both of which were dispatched low and hard by Bertoni.
When the Birmingham skipper picked up a second yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Craig Duffy in the 56th minute, that seemed to be the end of the home team’s challenge. Within a minute though they were level. Good work down the left and early slap into circle, allowed Shepherd to get his second with an unstoppable deflection into the roof of the net.
At this point no one could have blamed Havant if they’d decided to settle on a draw, but it doesn’t appear to be in their nature. Stubbings won the ball inside the Havant half and set off on a fast counterattack. Slick interplay with Cox, Hoddle and Deller-Merricks ended with the ball reaching Stubbings a few yards out. His flick on goal hit a Birmingham defender and before the umpire could blow for a penalty stroke, Ethan Hoddle lifted the ball into the net.
Whilst Birmingham tried hard to force another equaliser, the whole team worked tirelessly with Indy Laly in particular making three important tackles as the attacker tried hard to get behind the left side of the defence.
With only two games left in the regular season, I’m sure you’ve all worked out the importance of next week’s final home match against Chichester. If you had something else planned, cancel it.
GoalsMike Deller-Merricks 1
Federico Bertoni 2
Ethan Hoddle 1