The Beveree, Hampton
When it comes to taking a decent lead but squandering it and ending up disappointed, this season we rank up there with Kevin Keegan’s first stint with Newcastle and Adolf Hitler’s ill-fated Europa League campaign. Havant & ‘Ville gaffer Shaun Gale currently remains more popular than Hitler but that’s mainly due to the lack of any crossover with the Combat 18 membership amongst our week-in-week-out crew.
One has to acknowledge the fickleness of saying, as we have recently, that as long as we watch some entertaining football, win a few at home and pick up points on the road, we can handle not being serious contenders for promotion. Make no mistake, this was a terrific game to watch, however our desire to see a pulsating contest ebbs away somewhat when we take a two goal lead away from home whilst lying two places, and two points, above the relegation zone.
It’s not as though it’s hasn’t been a familiar tale of late. We let a two goal half-time lead slip in similar fashion at home to Sutton whilst the two games prior to this have seen advantages disappear like a magician’s assistant. Two goals in two minutes did for our hopes against Bromley, whilst last weekend in the FA Cup, an early Steve Ramsay goal from the penalty spot led to nothing more than a 3-2 defeat to Weston-super-Mare. A Cup run into the propers may have anaesthetised the escalating ache amongst our support. As it is the operation was botched, but we’re awake, alive and desperate for a new physician to oversee our recovery.
It will be a sad day when Shaun Gale leaves this club, he has been a loyal servant for over eleven years and it is that close-knittedness which means he retains the support of friends in high places. However I am more than prepared to deal with that sadness if it means we can begin to move forward and start enjoying ourselves again.
There has been little in terms of vocal anger on the terraces thus far, it’s mostly coming out on the online forum; the energy certainly feels like it has sapped amongst our hardcore. Our singing here at Hampton certainly lacked gusto, having as much vocal power and harmony as a playgroup carol concert comprising only the very shyest and tone-deaf of toddlers.
As we’ve said about eight thousand times before, “we looked good in the first half, but…”. As at Weston, a very early lead was ours, Sammy Igoe tapping a free-kick to Lee Peacock who unleashed a furious shot that took a slight deflection and sailed over Hampton keeper Matt Lovett. On the half hour, the lead was doubled when Lovett got his substantial frame in front of Ollie ‘Oi’ Palmer’s poked effort, but Scott Jones a.k.a. Jesus (the long-hair + surname combo meant, nickname wise, blasphemy was the only way we could go) was on hand to bounce a shot off the turf and over the now prostrate keeper. Perry Ryan also hit the post with a long range shot to add to our confidence levels.
Once again the half-time team-talk appeared to go along the lines of “well, I’d take it easy now, they look terrible”, and given Hampton are currently acting as entrenched foundations to the rest of the Conference South’s structure, one might well have assumed that all their morale had now vanished. A goal early in the second half for the home side sorted all that out, especially with it being such a fine one. Frankly it looked like Maradona in ’86 (the good one not the nawty one), Nathan Collier going through our midfield and defence like a puppy let loose among the Gormley’s on Crosby beach.
Astonishing, and their second effort was also easy on the eye, James Simmonds unleashing a well judged lob that left Lyall Beasley grabbing for air like a trapeze artist with timing problems. Happily we responded well to this set-back, re-establishing a lead within three minutes as Jon Macdonald’s long throw was met by Ollie Palmer’s scalp, the ball looping from it over a stranded Matt Lovett.
To put three past Lovett is a rare treat, as he’s been fantastic against us over the years and such a genial presence in terms of responding to behind-the-goal banter that he’s a popular figure amongst us without ever having played for us. Paul Bastock, formerly of St Albans City, was similarly feted.
So when Lovett’s knee-injury flared up, causing him to go down unchallenged twice in quick succession, he left the field warmly applauded not only by the Hampton fans, but equally so by our collective. The upshot of this was that Hampton, without a sub keeper on the bench, had to put a gangly outfield player in goal. Yet in the fifteen minutes he was on the field, he was never tested, and this came back to bite us, although it took Hampton three bites at the cherry.
Firstly a goal was chalked off for offside, then Lyall Beasley was required to save a penalty. Finally in the lengthy extra period caused by Lovett’s injury double, a Hawk clearance was smashed straight into the referee, the rebound falling kindly for Hampton who were able to work their way easily through our defence again, and score comfortably. Unless you have ref’s watching from a television monitor at the side of the pitch, there’s always the risk they’ll get in the way if you decide to wallop it at them. Certainly doesn’t mean you should wave the opposition through afterwards.
If one has to take the positives from the game, it is that Ollie Palmer has now scored three in three since signing with us and his partnership up front with Scott Jones looks like it has potential. It reminded me a bit of the days we had James Taylor and Jamie O’Rourke up front, and if they can be half as fruitful as that double-act, then that’ll be something to keep the home fires burning.
However our real problems lie in defence. Scoring three away from home is always good but not if you’re thinking, “mmm, I think we really need 4 or 5 here” against the team lying bottom of the division. I’d like to say the only way is up, but it isn’t, the relegation places are chomping away like hungry mouths, and we are the tasty morsel that is hanging directly above them.
Previously, on dubSteps
11sep10: Hampton & Richmond Borough 0 Havant & Waterlooville 1
15mar08: Hampton & Richmond Borough 1 Havant & Waterlooville 1