West Leigh Park, Havant
We’re used to taking the rough with the smooth. We are football supporters, it’s how we roll. However, just like all the food in the future (I say speaking in 1971 about the year 2000) will be in compacted tablet form, we have combined all the elements this week into a short elixir that, when necked, starts with a bitter taste that’ll make you wince a bit, then follows that sharp hit with a wave of unexpected pleasure. This is the story of our last 72 hours. Less than, actually.
On Saturday, we contrived to somehow get a lead (Craig Watkins strike was to be admired for its method and the fact it was our only chance in the entire game) but performed woefully in the second half and allowed Welling to come from behind for a deserved win. On the final whistle chants of “what a load of rubbish” were heard, whilst our assistant manager Charlie Oatway decided to hurl some pointed verbal abuse back in the direction of our support. I’d headed off to the station by this point but it all sounded rather unsavoury, a little unnecessary and certainly not cricket. Cads, bounders, I say how frightfuls and such.
It could be argued that Shaun Gale has survived this long in a disappointing season partly through being an approachable and likeable chap as well as being a through-and-through clubman who has become part of the furniture in his nine years with us. Charlie Oatway doesn’t have nearly the same amount of goodwill, and as such peppering his post-match chit-chat with fourteen f**ks, three tw*ts and a b*ll*ck-chops is probably not the ideal way to keep our hardcore away following on-side.
A nadir it may have been, but at least it may guarantee that, in the event of Shaun Gale leaving, we won’t get the usual method of succession planning, in that the first bloke who turns up in the car park gets the job. Who knows though, cos if the responding performance tonight against Bishop’s Stortford is a marker for the rest of the season, we may not have to worry about the top man’s position after all.
As a way of saying sorry for the performance against Welling, the Hawks wrapped up some ‘actually-playing-some-football’ in a lovely gift basket, all ribbons and everyfing. Just goes to show that they can do it, as it usually takes a better standard of opposition to bring this out of ‘em, but Bishop’s Stortford were nothing of that sort tonight. They’re the kind of outfit we’ve usually drawn 2-2 with, or lost 1-0 to, so an emphatic 3-0 home win is great cause for celebration.
Paul Hinshelwood has been a revelation at right back, while Wes Fogden, starting tonight in his favoured bombing-on centre-midfield role for the first time for us, dictated much of the improved play on show. Bonsai winger Robbie Martin also grows in metaphorical stature with each game, and Craig Watkins is becoming the clinical finisher we, to be honest, never thought he would be. He’s really grown from being a bit-part option to the first striking name on the team-sheet every week, and deservedly so.
Craig’s opener tonight was crisply taken, capitalising on a weak eyebrows flick-back by the Bish’s Paul Goodacre, showing more bottle than keeper Nicky Eyre in chasing the 50/50 and hammering it into the back of the net. Not long after, Matt Gray made the most of his God-given, and partly clippers-given, bald to delicately skid the ball off his swede into the corner of the net from Brett Poate’s pinpoint cross. With eight minutes remaining, Wes Fogden capped his display with a handsome run and long-range finish.
Not expected, but most welcome, the sort of thing we might have expected to be seeing more regularly at the start of the season. This confidence-boosting win has come at just the right time too what with a vital three games. First up we travel to a Bath City side on such a slide that they even lost to Fisher Athletic tonight, which even a team of breathless voles with a goose in goal would struggle to do. Then we play two of the three teams currently between that final relegation spot and ourselves, now in 17th; Dorchester away in mid-week then Thurrock at home. By Saturday week, all our immediate, more pressing problems could be over. Let’s hope so.
Havant & Waterlooville website
Bishop's Stortford website