Havant welcomed back Mo Lester for his first game of the season. It was also a return to the University of Bath ground for Sam Hatherley and Matt Boote, both of whom had enjoyed success with Team Bath.
If Havant were looking for a strong start and establish a platform, they didn’t get it. With less than two minutes on the clock, Team Bath worked the ball along the right goal line. Chris Bristow made the initial save, only for the ball to fall straight to the stick of the unmarked Ben Stevenson six yards out; he couldn’t miss and he didn’t. Havant were already having to battle hard to just retain the ball and make any inroads on the Team Bath defence. After nine minutes, Sam Hatherley managed to work a shot from a narrow angle but it didn’t trouble Stephen West, in the Bath goal. Immediately Bath were up the other end of the pitch. A slap hit into the circle from Irish International, John Jackson, flew off a Havant stick to Jamie Greenwood, who controlled it in the air and crashed the ball past Bristow on the half volley. Before Havant could draw breath they were three goals down. Chris Smith conceded a penalty corner, for an over robust challenge, and from it the injector, Jackson, managed to dive in front of Bristow to deflect Matt Ming’s half pace drag flick.
The mountain Havant had to climb had got even steeper. Team Bath continued to take the game to Havant as the visitors struggled to make any impression in midfield. With Taseeq in a deep lying role, Havant were reliant on his long aerials for Mike Deller-Merricks and Maciej Janiszewski to chase.
The home side forced four more penalty corners but their efforts at goal were either wide of the target, run down or dealt with impressively by the Havant keeper. Having weathered the storm, Havant then handed Team Bath a fourth.. A back pass from Taseeq was intercepted to give the home side a two on one, which Sam Anderson took full advantage of in the 24th minute.
Another determined run by Sam Hatherley finally gave Havant a chance from their first penalty corner after 29 minutes, but Tasseq’s drag flick down the centre of the goal was dealt with easily.
With the game virtually gone, Havant started the second half determined to at least win the half. Lessons weren’t learnt though and Team Bath added a fifth within a minute of the restart. Josh Mardell, who’d had an impressive first half, picked up the ball unopposed on the right, sped towards the circle, played a one two with a team mate on the goal line and calmly slotted the ball past Bristow.
At this point, we’ve all seen teams totally capitulate. However in this case it seemed to shock Havant into action. Energy levels increased, pressing was more urgent and for the first time, Havant were winning the midfield battles. Good interplay between Sam and Maciej gave Matt Boote a chance to work a shot that was deflected wide. Another attack down the right gave Maciej the time to get the ball on his reverse side but the shot flashed past the far post. Then in a similar position Taseeq displayed some magical skills to manufacture another shot that was well saved. Maybe Team Bath had eased off a touch, but there was no denying Havant had bossed the game for a twenty minute spell but with nothing to show for it.
As is then often the case, Team Bath made Havant pay. After two earlier attacking thrusts had been thwarted by a good tackle from Taseeq and a save from Chris Bristow, Ben Stevenson won Team Bath another penalty corner in the 59th minute. This time Team Bath dummied the drag flick and slipped it left to Stevenson, who slapped it just inside the right post for his second of the game.
It looked like Havant would go home empty handed when skipper Raj Laly got a harsh yellow card for what the umpire interpreted as a deliberate foot in the 60th minute. Nothing came of the resulting corner and Havant, to their credit, continued to take the game to the opposition. With three minutes left they got a small consolation. Tomek Bruml worked the ball into the circle from the left to Maciej. His shot was saved but the rebound was eventually volleyed over the line by Sam Hatherley. Another chance was created and went begging immediately after and then with the final play of the game Maciej won another penalty corner. Taseeq’s drag flick was saved and then the umpire adjudged Craig Duffy had been fouled attempting to follow up. With the final whistle blown and the rest of the players shaking hands, Maciej easily put away the penalty stroke.
There was no denying that Team Bath has an impressive team, with some skilful individuals in all areas of the pitch. Perhaps Havant though were guilty of giving them too much respect in the first half and this is something certainly to take into the next match.