With ten minutes to go at Imber Court, fans would have been forgiven for accepting that the points would be shared between the two sides. However, with seven minutes left, a magnificent piece of skill from Ben Swallow saw him glide between two defenders and force a save from Luke Edgecombe. The rebound fell right at the feet of substitute, Matt Patterson, who tapped the ball home to seal the win or the Hawks.
The Met will have felt robbed of a point as, for large parts of the match, they restrained the Hawks, and even hit the bar with the score at 1-1. However, Edgecombe’s criminal error cost them a valuable point which would have lifted them off the bottom of the Isthmian Premier Division table. Patterson’s opportunistic effort showed how important it is for strikers to have a knack of being in the right place at the right time, as he swooped to bag all three points for the Hawks.
This came after the hosts opened the scoring on three minutes, with their first attack of the game. Rory Williams was beaten far too easily by Jerome Federico, as the winger was able to drive towards the by-line unchallenged, before centreing the ball for Charlie Collins to glance a header into the far corner. It signaled a shocking start for the Hawks, as Williams got squared up against Federico and a lack of communication between Ed Harris and Ryan Woodford left Ryan Young helpless.
Havant’s reply was instant as, straight from kick off, some good passing play opened up the Met defence, releasing Jason Prior on the left side of the penalty area. The ex-Bognor Regis man got to the by-line, then kept his cool and put the ball on a plate for his strike partner, Alfie Rutherford, to slide it into the corner. The Hawks would have been hoping that momentum would be on their side so they could go on and grab an emphatic victory, but the match quietened down after the flurry of early goals.
Ben Swallow had a half-hearted appeal for a penalty waved away as he went down under the challenge of Rob Bartley, and then Wes Fogden saw a shot flash across the face of goal after more good work by Jason Prior. Swallow was heavily involved throughout the match, giving Will Salmon plenty to worry about, and he linked up well with Dan Strugnell after half an hour. The right back put in a threatening delivery which was met by the stretching Rutherford, but the 18 year-old was unable to hit the target at the far post.
Wes Fogden’s injury problems re-emerged soon afterwards, after he went in for a sliding tackle and went down holding his leg. The management chose to take no risks with the injury-prone midfielder, and he was replaced by Bradley Tarbuck. A free kick from Ben Swallow almost sneaked into the far corner, but Rutherford deflected the ball away from the goal, and his back-heel was saved by the feet of Edgecombe.
The first half was brought to a close with no further incident, and Lee Bradbury will have been disappointed that, despite the number of chances his side had created, they failed to work the goalkeeper often enough.
The start to the second half was somewhat scrappy, with neither side being able to get a feel for the ball and string a significant number of passes together. The first action of note came when the Met were awarded a free kick when Ed Harris felled his man, but Rob Bartley drove his effort into the wall from Charlie Collins’ layoff.
Met Police, who looked a danger from set pieces all night, came close several times from corners, but were unable to get their headed efforts on target. Bartley, in particular, will feel that he should have worked Ryan Young more than he did, as his strength oft proved too much for the Havant defence. Federico continued to terrorise Rory Williams, and forced a good save from Young after his mazy run saw him beat three men on the edge of the area. The 38 year-old, however, remained agile enough to deny him.
Another great stop from Young kept the match level, when yet another corner was not dealt with by the Hawks defence, but the veteran ‘keeper hurled himself down to his right to keep the ball from sneaking inside his post. The Met threatened with a number of long-range efforts, although wasted several shooting opportunities by failing to keep the ball down when shooting.
Theo Lewis, and then Alfie Rutherford, made the same mistake as they fired over the bar from good positions. Rutherford’s shot brought out the frustrations of his teammates, especially Jason Prior who, if the teenager had been more aware of what was around him, would have had a tap-in.
Shortly after Rutherford’s miss, Lee Bradbury chose to make a double substitution as he changed both his strikers. He brought off Rutherford and Prior and replaced them with Matt Patterson and James Hayter. It was the Met substitute, Matt Lane, who came closest to scoring, however. He was given too much space by Theo Lewis 25 yards out, and cracked a dipping effort off Ryan Young’s crossbar. Patterson came close to making an instant impact when, with his first real involvement of the match, he had a shot deflected wide of Edgecombe’s goal.
Just when it looked like the Hawks were going to have to settle for a point, however, a diagonal pass from Theo Lewis was met by a brilliant piece of skill by Ben Swallow. He cut inside two men before curling a shot towards the far corner. Although Edgecombe stopped the ball from going in, he will have been disappointed that he didn’t push the ball wider of the goal, as his parry landed right at the feet of Patterson, who slotted home the winner.
Despite having to contend with a couple of nervy moments in the closing minutes, the Hawks did enough to see out the result. Although they would have been hoping for a more comfortable win against the bottom-of-the-table opponents, they will be more than satisfied with the three points.
Ryan Young: 8 – Made a couple of important saves to keep the match level.
Dan Strugnell: 7 – Offered an attacking threat early on but faded from the match.
Ryan Woodford: 6 – A lapse in communication between the centre backs led to the first goal.
Ed Harris: 6 – Came through his first 90 minutes unscathed. Assured but unremarkable.
Rory Williams: 5 – Was beaten too easily for the first goal. Unable to deal with Federico’s pace.
Ben Swallow: 9 – Man of the match. Terrorised the opposition left back and on another day would have scored.
Theo Lewis: 6 – Had a quiet game with a couple of flashes of class.
Andreas Robinson: 6 – Tried to do too much on some occasions. Protected the back four adequately.
Wes Fogden*: 7 – Looked bright early on but picked up another injury.
Alfie Rutherford**: 7 – Well taken goal but a bit wasteful at times.
Jason Prior***: 8 – Covered lots of ground and won everything in the air. Unselfish to assist Rutherford.
Bradley Tarbuck*: 6 – Struggled to make an impact on the game.
James Hayter**: 6 – Long balls didn’t suit his style of play. Worked hard but ineffectual.
Matt Patterson***: 7 – Right place at the right time to score. Looked bright when he came on.