Westleigh Park, Havant
Now, of course, it’s too soon to start saying “where did it all go right?”. After all Christmas is coming, a period when, typically, the H&W goose does not get fat. If anything it shrivels like a willy in an ice bath. Indeed, traditionally, our players treat the winter like hedgehogs, in that they slow their breathing down to a bare minimum and curl up under a shed until spring.
However it’s never too soon to tell you that we’ve had an odd week. We’ve had lots of them. Picture the scene this past Tuesday evening if you will (I have to, as I was at a work thing in Manchester). It is half-time, the Hawks have put in such a lacklustre shift for the previous 45 minutes as to suggest reluctant working to rule while votes in a ballot for strike action were being counted. At this point, sirens were calling us onto the relegation zone rocks.
On the whistle to signal it was time for the tea and orange segments, boos buzzed around like militant worker bees demanding a new head of state, the manager was loudly questioned as to the exact timing of his resignation and generally the visceral side of disappointment rang out on the terraces for the first time in a couple of years.
Yet, here we are three halves of football later having scored nine goals, and conceded none further. Exciting stuff no doubt, and reminiscent in its rampantness of our ‘crazy April’ from two seasons ago (last five games = five wins = 3-1, 4-0, 6-0, 2-0, 5-2). However one must temper any excitement as we’ve turned so many corners during Shaun Gale’s tenure we’ve whittled the sharp edges of those corners to the point that it’s now a roundabout.
On Tuesday, we faced Dorchester who were looking for a catalyst that would heave their player-manager out of his job. A two-nil lead at half-time wasn’t going to do it, so we obliged by running them ragged in the second half. Three days later Ashley Vickers departed the Dorchester hot seat. Westleigh Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Vickers in 2011. This past week we’ve, essentially, tipped him off the end of the managerial plank, and back in March he found himself staring down a red card here for taking time out of another Hawk v Dorch midweek fixture to wrestle with a near-naked man.
This weekend Farnborough came to town in an environment that, not for the first time, shows they like to spend well beyond their means, like a student maxing out their loan on beer and curries before remembering the list of text books in their back pocket. It is only three years since Farnborough TOWN withered under a mountain of debt. The new Farnborough FC were sent to Southern League rehab, but they said no, no, no, we rather like ripping off our creditors, and are looking like they will sink through our division like a stone once again. Especially when you factor in their Tuesday night was spent salvaging a 1-7 half-time deficit to only lose 8-2, and this was at Truro, themselves dipping tootsies in the financial cess-pit.
At the beginning of the first half, all things seemed fairly even, but the tendency within the play was certainly more inclined to the goal we were stood behind. Eventually we took the lead after 36 minutes, Ollie Palmer following up his brace in Tuesday’s turnaround with another goal, a header that skimmed off a defensive head on the line before bobbling about in the frame in the top corner of the net. Now, if the Conference South had a dubious goals committee, there might well be a stewards enquiry into whether or not it was his head or a defender’s that projected the ball goalwards. In any case, he spirited off like a greyhound out of the traps to excitedly claim his scoring bonus.
As it was our second goal would also be lucrative for Ollie as a good run and cheeky pass by Craig Braham-Barrett put him through and his finish was sublime in its delicacy, thread the ball ever so gently past the keeper’s outstretched arm.
After Wes Fogden left for Bournemouth we wondered where the goals would come from. The answer: easy, the fella that rocked up last week. Not that Ollie turning up just before Wes cleared off was a pre-emptive like-for-like. Wes is a jinksy, beaverish midfielder, about four foot tall, and with a face like a brand new relief map of London Bridge (now that ‘The Shard’ has been built anyway). Ollie on the other hand is an old school poacher of a forward, 6’ 5” in his stockinged feet, and wearing a mush that looks like someone’s had at it with a shovel.
We know it’s early days but Ollie’s goal ratio (7 goals in 5 games since signing) is not only better than Wes’, it’s better than our club’s two most legendary strikers ‘Super’ Jimmy Taylor (138 in 297 games) and Rocky Baptiste (85 in 145). His partnership with the harrying, never-say-die Scott Jones means we don’t really need the big lump of an ex-Premiership (and Champions League) striker, Vincent Pericard, currently wafting around our club like a something-of-nothing parp-fart. One imagines that, despite playing for free, he won’t be upon our nostrils for too long, as his barely discernable presence seems pleasingly unnecessary. Give me two fresh, committed, young non-Leaguers over a famous man seemingly sliding fast out of the professional game with barely a whimper any day.
Anyway, character assassination aside, two goals to the good soon became three, our man of the season thus far Sammy Igoe showing all of his class by lobbing keeper Sam Somerville from the side of the box with an up and under that took seemingly forever to drop and bounce back up into the net.
Fifteen minutes later as Palmer tried to turn in the box to seal a hat-trick, he only managed to brush the ball with his toe as he fell backwards under the attention of several defenders. However Steve Ramsay was on hand to nick in and poke the ball home. Rambo prefers a more elaborate route to goal glory though and wrapped up the rather splendid afternoon with a thirty yarder that, in fairness, scuffed a bit, skidding like a stone on a pond before smacking the post and drowning in the base of the net.
So, that’s twelve goals in three games in the last week, nine in three consecutive halves of good football played. Stringing two halves together has been troublesome enough so we’ll delight in this whilst being aware that greater challenges await. Such as away at Woking next Saturday. Will normal service be resumed, or will we see something really remarkable? This site will aim to report back to you on this next week.