On Monday night about 200 fans watched from the cold stands at the Wicor Recreation Ground in Portchester to see an exciting contest between AFC Portchester and Havant & Waterlooville. The game was originally meant to be played at Westleigh Park on Tuesday night but had to be brought forward and moved to the Wicor Recreation Ground to allow Portsmouth to play a home friendly against Coventry on Tuesday night at Westleigh Park.
The Hawks fielded a fairly strong eleven in the match, with new signings Lee Molineaux, Matt Patterson and James Hayter all starting. The full eleven, in a 4-4-2 diamond system, was: Ryan Young (C); Dan Strugnell; Lee Molineaux; Harry Medway; Warren Cummings; Brian Stock; Marley Ridge; Adrian Clifton; Ben Swallow; Matt Patterson; James Hayter. The system was played with a flat back four, although both Strugnell and Cummings came forward at times, with Stock sitting deep in front of the defence, Ridge on the right side of midfield, and Clifton on the left and Ben Swallow playing in an advanced role just behind the two strikers.
The first chance of note was after eight minutes, when James Hayter found himself through on goal but saw his shot rattle against the base of the left-hand post when 1-on-1 with the ‘keeper. Three minutes later, a Ben Swallow corner was met by Adrian Clifton who was able to head the ball past Portchester’s Whittingham and into the net. However, four minutes after the Hawks put themselves in front, a lapse in concentration at the back meant that Cummings found himself in a footrace with Everitt down the left flank. Everitt was able to outstrip the veteran left back to get a ball into the centre of the box, where Jason Parrish was able to turn Molineaux before sliding the ball into the far corner, past Ryan Young. Youth graduate, Marley Ridge, looked good in the first half, and was often seen challenging for balls unbecoming of his height and playing intricate passing moves with his teammates.
With 25 minutes on the clock, the Hawks were denied a goal twice when Matt Patterson shot from 25 yards and saw his shot rattle against the crossbar, before the resulting rebound came to Ben Swallow whose first-time drive had to be expertly tipped onto the post and out for a corner by Whittingham. A couple of minutes later it was the hosts’ turn to rattle the woodwork, when Alex Baldacchino’s long-range effort came off the underside of the bar before being gratefully plucked out of the air by Young. A goal was inevitable, and it came for the home side half an hour in, when a seemingly harmless ball in from the right was met by the head of Hawks’ right back, Dan Strugnell. The defender seemed to be caught in two minds whether to head it back to his ‘keeper or to put it out for a corner, and ended up getting just enough o his header for the ball to loop up and over Young before coming to rest in his own goal.
With the visitors arriving at the ground expecting a fairly comprehensive victory, this gave them a big surprise and their intensity visibly improved after they went behind. First Ben Swallow made an encouraging run into the box that was only stopped by a magnificent last-ditch challenge by ex-Pompey Academy defender, Josh Warren. Finally though, on the brink of half-time, Cummings’ ball down the left was collected by Hayter, who was able to chip it across goal where it was met by the leaping Patterson to send the two sides in level at half-time.
At the break, Hawks’ boss, Lee Bradbury, wrung the changes, with Dan Blanchett replacing Cummings, Ed Harris replacing Medway and Scott Donnelly replacing Ridge. The start of the second half was somewhat less exciting than the first half that came before it. There were only a couple of half-chances early on, with both Patterson and Swallow dragging their shots across the face of the Portchester goal. Finally, however, in the 69th minute Matt Patterson made the most of some suspect positioning by the replacement goalkeeper to fire a low drive into the net and give his side a 3-2 lead. After the goal, Bradbury made two more changes, with Jake Gale replacing Hayter and Charlie Searle replacing Young. With the game all but won, the Hawks conceded a soft goal, with Searle choosing to leave Blu Boam’s shot, believing it to be trickling wide of the far post, but instead it rolled off the post and across the line.