Eastbourne Borough saw their hopes of a festive National South double over Havant and Waterlooville blown to bits in a first-half blitz on New Year’s Day as the Hampshire visitors cracked in three goals in six minutes.
Although the Sports stabilised and held their own for the rest of the game, they had only a late Charlie Walker consolation to cheer the 1,081 crowd at the SO Legal Community Stadium. Borough were not dreadful, but manager Danny Bloor held his hands up. “Havant were worthy winners, they came here and did a job on us, and executed their plan exceptionally well. I did say to our boys, when you’re three-nil down at half-time you can be staring at a massive scoreline. But we didn’t give up, we played well in the second half – and indeed for most of the first half apart from that six-minute spell!”
After the fizz of a sparkling win on Boxing Day, this game had its moments, but the after-taste was less Prosecco and more of a neat bitter lemon. Havant were ruthless in more than one sense, and their physicality was the basis of a commanding whole-team display – and a deserved victory.
Hawks conceded eighteen fouls – more than double the Eastbourne total – and copped four yellow cards, but narrowly escaped going down to ten men. Referee Lewis Sandoe must have felt like a traffic warden chasing illegal drivers in all corners of the car park – but never quite catching them.
Early on, there was little to choose. Shiloh Remy and Milly Scarlett were creating some smart overlaps on the Borough right, while at the other end Lee Worgan had to go full stretch to keep out a 30-yard Hawks free kick. The visitors were beginning to impose themselves physically, but the Sports were alert to their movement.
And then, suddenly, the match swung Havant’s way. From a 24th minute free-kick deep in their own half, they moved the ball well to create a chipped ball into the Borough box – where two home defenders virtually collided in attempting to head clear. Pouncing in a flash, Paul Rooney hammered the loose ball past Worgan’s right hand from 15 yards: 1-0.
Within four minutes the lead was doubled – although Borough had strong reason to be aggrieved. They conceded a corner on the Havant left, and as it was taken, Joe Oastler blatantly impeded Worgan in what looked like a planned manoeuvre, and Jason Prior’s header found the top left hand corner of the Sports net.
But the home side could blame nobody but themselves when, just two minutes later, a simple low ball across the goalmouth evaded four defenders and was smashed gratefully into the net by Charlie Ruff. Half an hour played, and effectively it was game over.
Danny Bloor looked to shore up the defence by introducing Brad Barry off the bench, and in fairness the last hour of the afternoon was much less one-sided than the first 30 minutes had been. But Havant were in unforgiving mood, and still physically dominant. By the end of the contest, they would concede 17 fouls as well as their four yellow cards – and the latter total might well have been higher. Rooney escaped a caution just before half-time for a body-check on Gravata, then finally found himself in Mr Sandoe’s book on the hour mark – only to then earn a final-final warning minutes later before being subbed by manager Paul Doswell.
It had not been the prettiest show, but it was pretty effective. The Sports never stop running and creating, and had Remy managed to convert a decent chance, from a left-wing move, with half an hour to play, we might just have seen some late drama. But by the time Charlie Walker popped in an 86th minute header, late had become too late – and the Hawks headed home with three points to start the New Year.
Borough: Worgan; Scarlett (Barry) Burchell, Dickenson, Innocent; Vaughan, Perez ( Walker) Remy, Whelpdale, Gravata; Hutchinson ( Luer)
Unused subs: Hammond, Holter
Referee: Lewis Sandoe
Borough MoM: James Vaughan