FA Cup Third Qualifying Round
Westleigh Park, Havant
In the effort not to suffer embarrassment in this year’s Cup, or at least not any more of it, following the Shortwood squeak, we made an excellent start against Godalming Town, from two divisions below. Gary Holloway benefited from a fortunate ricochet back off his legs following the keepers save at his feet to start the scoring, then Paul Booth opened his own account after a lengthy spell out on a long and tentative route back from injury with a wonderful run, shimmy and finish.
It’s a good job Boother’s starting to show his shooting credentials, as ‘Luckless’ Luke Nightingale had to depart prior to half-time owing to him feeling ill. I’m not entirely sure what the signal is to the bench that communicates “ee, gaffer, I’m feelin’ right bilious” but he was quickly replaced by Jamie Slabber who came on, running about like a racehorse. A racehorse handicapped to the tune of a couple of anvils in his saddle flaps.
To be fair to Luke he had almost made it 3-0 in the 16th minute, four minutes after Holloway’s goal and not much more than seconds after Booth’s, when he crashed a smart shot off the bar. Clearly the god of goalage doesn’t like Luke much right now. At this point, the Hawk’s vitality and ruthlessness was uncommonly impressive, although Godalming spent the half looking nervy and leggy, and not much like a side up for a scalping.
Clearly their gaffer Chuck Martini, always a blustering presence in his past life as a goalkeeper for Kings Lynn against us, gave the dressing room walls a good tea-cupping at half-time, as they came out looking much brighter, whilst we were clearly wrapped up snugly in our laurels. Graeme Purdy’s 57th minute brought the game back to life, with chances coming at both ends, posts, goal-line clearances and deflections getting in the way of a further goal.
Given our ten minute burst early in the first period, this was a game that should have been over well before half-time but, in keeping with this season in general, heavy-weather was made of what could and should have been taken care of with the minimum of fuss.
Still, we’re in the fourth qualifying round once more, potentially 90 minutes from Leeds or Leicester. To put ourselves in a chance of that we will need to beat Crawley Town at their place. Given that they are currently placed atop the Conference Premier it is, strictly speaking, the toughest draw we could have got.
Mind you, given that our adventures of the last couple of seasons have been prefaced by relatively kind draws in the qualifiers, we can’t really justify a complaint, although we’ll certainly manage a hefty collective sigh. Nothing will ever stop us wanting to have another bite of the Cup-cake.
As a club we have felled bigger trees than Crawley in the (recent) past, but this remains a largely new-look Hawk side, and they will have to raise their game over and above what they have so far shown this season if they want a Cup escapade of their own.
Nothing, though, is impossible as we, rather happily, know only too well.