West Leigh Park, Havant
third in a series of short despatches from the play-off push
I was half tempted not to bother highlighting the score, so obvious was it. Our sixth 1-1 draw in the last seven weeks. In the form table, based on the last six games, we lie 18th. I don't need a tweed jacket and a pointy stick to tell you that we are not exactly sprinting to the finish line here. Prior to those six games, we still had a fairly good chance of going up automatically, but Histon are now 17 points clear of us and will certainly be Conference South champions this year.
We are now focused on one goal. That being the swatting away of the flies that are gathering around our play-off picnic. However, as we only have Salisbury of those around us still to play (and them pretty certain of their place) we can't even bash the most virile pests on the head with a rolled up newspaper directly. We need to clatter the slower, more tired flies that have given up hope of infiltrating our Tupperware box of scotch-eggs and cocktail sausages and pray that that will be enough to send out a message to the rest of 'em.
With regards the 1-1 draws I have reported on previously, at Welling and Lewes, I essentially postulated that a big ol' ice cream and a seaside stroll was the difference between a good 1-1 draw and an annoying-DohwwwwWwwww-why-I-outta, stalemate. There was no '99 today, I'm afraid, not even a bite of the bottom end of someone's melting Fab.
It was all going so well too. We arguably had the best of the first half, thanks in part to some panicky, daisy-troubling kicking from Eastleigh keeper James Pullen. Indeed, we had several opportunities to strand him whilst scrambling, like a toddling paddler in a rip-tide, back to his goal-line. Ben Sedgemore didn't take his opportunity, but Shaun Wilkinson did, although sadly his handsome lob dropped about a foot over the bar.
It was early in the second half when we took our lead, Brett Poate bending a training-ground three-touch free-kick past Pullen [see photo below] which knocked a lot of the wind out of Eastleigh's sails, and it was looking a bit of a breeze, so much so, in fact, that we never summoned up the requisite energy to properly sink their ship, which proved costly once Wilkinson was tunnelled for a second yellow.
We managed to put up a fight for seven minutes, Shane Gore making vital saves, and Mickey Warner taking a rocket for the team. After Tom Jordan had cleared off the goal-line, a follow-up welt saw a prostrate Mickey, on said line, taking a Emily-Davison-leaping-in-front-of-the-King's-horse-(had-that-horse-been-shot-out-of-a-circus-cannon-two-feet-from-her-directly-active-mush)-like hit. However such oblivous, concussed efforts from our man, his boat now as flat as the Queen's on the back of an ha'penny, ultimately proved in vain, as Ian Oliver stroked home an equaliser with three minutes to go. After that, both teams made efforts to win it, and we just about held on.
With our former hero, record appearance-maker and goalscorer James Taylor doing us an extra favour by scoring the winner for relegation-battling Basingstoke against Bishop's Stortford, the point actually saw us go back up a place. However the flies are circling ever closer, and they've got their eyes on our Sara Lee gateaux, fresh from the cool box.
Conference South state of play (09apr07)
1: Histon 82pts
2: Salisbury City 69pts
3: Havant & Waterlooville 65pts
4: Bishop’s Stortford 65pts
5: Welling United 64pts
6: Braintree Town 61pts
7: Eastbourne Borough 59pts - 2 games in hand
8: Newport County 56pts - 3 games in hand
Havant & Waterlooville website