A confident 6th XI side returned to the college after earning their first league win of the season last week. A 4pm pushback drew fewer fans than the mighty 6s may usually expect but morale and expectations were high among the team. This game was Havant’s first look at an Eastleigh team with a reputation for physicality, so the pre-match talk focused on keeping the free-flowing identity that we have established over the last 2 seasons but not being afraid to get stuck in.
It was apparent early in the game that mobility was going to be a real difference maker in this encounter. Eastleigh were beaten for pace in every area of the pitch and struggled to stay with their men. Havant took advantage of this with a number of quick counter attacks that tore into the Eastleigh circle but drew good saves from the keeper. Relentless harrying from AR in the midfield foiled much of the Eastleigh offence and he enjoyed the fruits of his own labour to break the deadlock: a strong strike from the top of the D was too good for the left foot of the Eastleigh keeper. Eastleigh were not to be easily beaten and managed a few circle penetrations of their own throughout the half, but the ever-reliable AJ and DT kept them at bay. Havant continued to surge on the counter and converted a second chance not long after the first. Eventual MoM Ben Hegan picked up the ball just above the penalty spot and finished with aplomb: a flick to the top right that would not have looked out-of-place in the 1st XI. 2-0 to the 6s.
Wary of complacency, the team continued to keep the tempo high. The midfield three of Harry, AR and Ben continued to expose the lack of mobility in the Eastleigh defence with quick passes to the quicker Havant forwards. Healey, Sheff and Max Whitehorn produced chance after chance and were unfortunate not to score on several cutbacks from the baseline. The finishing was far from clinical and the side could have scored far more goals in the first half, the squad clearly missing the injured Jonny Rawlinson who would have surely netted several against this defence.
Havant did manage to add a third before the half though. A strike from the left side was saved by the Eastleigh keeper but fell directly to Paul Shefferd who fired past the man on the line for his second in as many weeks. In last weeks report I mentioned the rarity of AJ leaving the pitch via substitution and suggested such an occurrence may not happen again. Unbelievably he was again side-lined for the first five minutes of the second half, although this time on a forced rest after being politely reminded by the umpire that we were playing hockey and not rugby. Rumour has it the Eastleigh forward has agreed not to press charges so long as he can have one of the 15-year-old bottles of IPA out of the Jameson garage.
The 10 men who started the second half dug in and exemplary communication from Alex Leach kept the press intact. Even with a man advantage Eastleigh failed to score. The second half was tougher than the first and Havant can largely take responsibility for this. Sloppy decision making and passing made the going tough and the anticipated physical battle finally came to pass. Special mention should be made of Andrew Slingsby and Jude Richards who were tenacious in their containment of the Eastleigh wide men and forced them to cut inside to the teeth of the Havant defence.
Perhaps the highlight play of the second half was goalkeeper Dave Harvie giving a nonchalant 25 yard pass with his feet that made the Eastleigh centre forward look a fool and drew cheers from the crowd on the sideline. Eastleigh thought they had pulled one back in scrappy fashion, but the goal was overturned after it transpired that young Luke had been clocked in the eye with a stick in the build-up. Havant eventually added a fourth through James Healey after a short corner that eventually left him to coolly flick past the keeper on a tight angle.
A clean sheet was scrubbed out in the dying minutes from an Eastleigh short corner. A “wide” flick was left by Dave “I love flicks” Harvie that happened to be several inches inside the right post. I don’t have much else to say about this goal, as Dave has already been relentlessly slandered by the team in person.The full-time whistle sounded with Havant running out worthy 4-1 winners on a relatively good performance. Our best wishes go to Jonny for a speedy recovery and his presence is sorely missed both on and off the pitch.
Scorers: Andrew Richards, Ben Hegan, Paul Shefferd and James HealeyMoM was Ben Hegan for another awesome performance that was so good most of the team believed he had scored twice!DoD was our dear AJ for a tackle that was never worth a yellow card…if he was playing tighthead prop.