Pompey fans have been looking forward to the beginning of the new season ever since new manager, Paul Cook, was appointed in May. In any case, the opening game of a club’s pre season is always a highly anticipated occasion as the well known faces make their return to first team football, as well as the new signings and trialists having a chance to show the manager and the supporters what they can do for the first time. Sure enough, the Blue Army turned up in numbers with a ten percent increase on the attendance from last season’s game, despite the extortionate ticket prices set by the Hawks.
The main attraction for Blues fans was undoubtedly the promise of the innumerable new players being put on display. The new signing included Enda Stevens, Christian Burgess, Adam Barton, Michael Doyle, Kyle Bennett, Gary Roberts, Kal Naismith, and Jayden Stockley, as well as first year professionals Brandon Haunstrup and Snorre Nilsen. The trialists vying to impress Cook included right back Connor Randall, right winger Gareth Evans, Ben Tollitt, pro boxer Callum Hassan and striker Theo Robinson. Pompey played a different eleven in each half, with the sole exception of Christian Burges, who lasted until the 77th minute before being replaced by Snorre Nilsen.
It could be argued that the Hawks had the better of the first 45 minutes, with Pompey’s only chances being wasted, the first two by Matt Tubbs as he failed to capitalise on crosses from Stockley and Evans respectively, before Christian Burgess went on a marvellous jinking run past four scrambling Hawks defenders but couldn’t quite get his shot away. This was outlined when, in the 21st minute, a free kick swung in by Scott Donnelly from the right hand side was diverted past Michael Poke by the back of new signing Adrian Clifton to put Havant 1-0 up. As the half time whistle blew, there was much discontent in the Pompey end that their team was trailing to a side two leagues below them who only trained two evenings a week.
A new look side came out for the second half, one that on paper seemed slightly stronger than that which had started the game, and just two minutes after the break a short corner was taken quickly by Kyle Bennett and eventually worked back to Michael Doyle at the edge of the area who smashed the ball past the Hawks’ ‘keeper Ryan Young. The home side hardly got a touch in the second half, with the Pompey eleven showing their superiority by creating several great scoring chances. Firstly, Gary Roberts found himself with the ball in a similar position from which Doyle had scored, and let fly a drive with outside of his foot that was expertly tipped over by the flying Young. A few minutes later, Young was called upon again to save Havant, as Bennett’s right wing cross was met by the head of Theo Robinson from point blank range and looked destined for the net before Young managed to tip the ball onto the crossbar. Yet again, the 35 year old goalkeeper denied Robinson, as this time the latter bore down on him 1-on-1 and was again denied a right hand pushing the ball wide. Finally, in the closing moments of the game, Tollitt managed to cut inside his man and shoot from the left hand side of the area, but it couldn’t quite curl enough to find the bottom corner.
At full time, the Fratton Faithful were far more content with the performance than they had been at half time. Although it was, undoubtedly, a game Pompey should have won, the fans seemed prepared to accept that it was just a friendly and that the result didn’t really mean anything. For the most part, the supporters seemed pleased at the second half performance in particular, and are now already looking forward to the upcoming matches against Bognor Regis and Gosport Borough within the next week.