Last night saw the Hawks look to continue their promotion charge as they welcomed Harrow Borough to Westleigh Park, with The Reds looking to finish the season in good form. Havant needed a win to push on from Saturday’s goalless draw at Needham Market in order to keep up with local rivals, Bognor Regis Town, at the top of the league. Lee Bradbury named an unchanged side from the one which drew at Needham Market at the weekend, with Dan Strugnell retaining his place as the right wing-back after an injury lay-off and Bradley Tarbuck partnering Jason Prior up front, ahead of the injured Alfie Rutherford.
However, things didn’t get off to the best start for the Hawks as a mistake from Ryan Woodford allowed Lheureux Menga to put the visitors in front after five minutes. What looked like a harmless clearance was put in behind the home defence and, as Woodford went to pass the ball back to Ryan Young, the defender stood on the ball, allowing Menga to run through on goal and slot past the Hawks’ keeper. It was almost 2-0 just minutes later when Brian Stock was caught in possession on the halfway line, triggering a Borough counter attack which led to Michael Bryan tapping in at the far post. However, to the Hawks’ relief, the linesman flagged for offside and the goal was disallowed.
But the home side looked to recover well from their early setbacks and peppered the Harrow goal with a succession of shots and crosses into the box. Jason Prior came close with a header which he was unable to keep under the bar, and Wes Fogden also saw a shot saved by Luke Williams. However, the Hawks suffered another blow after half an hour when February’s player of the month, Bradley Tarbuck, went down injured after closing down an opposition defender, requiring him to be stretchered off and be replaced by James Hayter. On the stroke of half-time, Rory Williams was released on the left side of the penalty area but was unable to keep his shot on target to send the sides in level at half-time. As the players walked in for half-time, a fuming Lee Bradbury was seen booting the ball into the stands as he prepared to give his players a dressing down at the interval.
One can only assume that the Hawks’ manager laid into his side during the half-time break as they looked resurgent when they came out for the second half. Williams had to be on his toes to keep out an early effort from James Hayter as the hosts looked to pile pressure onto the Harrow defence. But the goalkeeper could not subdue Havant for long, as Wes Fogden found the breakthrough in the 52nd minute when he was able to swivel in the penalty area and fire the ball into the far corner. The ex-Bournemouth man came close to scoring his second soon afterwards as a long ball from Ryan Young was met by a flick on from Jason Prior, sending Fogden through one-on-one with Williams, but the midfielder dragged his effort wide of the post. The home side continued to be the dominant force in the match, as a series of goal-line scrambles eventually led to Theo Lewis having an effort scrambled off the line before Bryan hooked the ball narrowly wide of his own post. Lewis came close once again soon after as he met Dan Strugnell’s cross with a diving header which whistled just wide.
The home side finally managed to take the lead after some further good work from Rory Williams which saw him win a corner on the left-hand side. Although the initial ball in was cleared, the ball fell to Williams who was able to find Jordan Rose, whose cross was met by Ed Harris unmarked at the far post to head the Hawks into the lead. Luke Williams had no chance in the Harrow goal and Harris was clearly delighted at scoring for the first time in the league since his cruciate ligament injury which kept him out for over a year. Once in the lead, Bradbury replaced Dan Strugnell with Ben Swallow at right wing-back, presumably to protect the right-back after his recent injuries. Havant looked to score a third to end the match as a contest and came very close to doing so when Jason Prior looped a header against the top of the bar from Ben Swallow’s first cross of the match. But the game was eventually wrapped up with fifteen minutes left as Rory Williams found Brian Stock on the left with a pinpoint first time pass, allowing the skipper to cross the ball in for James Hayter to head the ball into the top corner with several Hawks players queueing up to score. The closing stages saw the Hawks bring Mike Carter on for Theo Lewis to close out the match, as the game ended with no further incident. The Hawks will be very pleased to have got the win to keep the pressure on their South Coast rivals.
Both Havant and Bognor have five games still to play this season, with the Rocks currently having a lead of four points over the Hawks after they won against leiston last night. It is looking increasingly likely that the league title will be decided when the Rocks travel to Westleigh Park on Easter Monday for the penultimate match of the Ryman Premier League season. As far as last night’s match is concerned, it was not a great showcase of world class defending. Harrow’s goal simply would not have been scored if it wasn’t for a calamitous error from Ryan Woodford and the visiting goalkeeper can feel very let down by his defenders who were nonexistent for Havant’s second and third goals. But the game as a whole was an exciting one and it was a good spectacle for Ryman Premier League football. Hopefully the Hawks can continue their current form and get themselves into a position to win the league title, but regardless the end of the season will be very interesting and will probably go right down to the wire.