Westleigh Park, Havant
So, the first two games of the Johnson/Aymes floor-sweeping, screw-tightening, general maintenance regime could hardly have gone better. First, a tough 1-0 away win at Truro in conditions more suited to stunt kite-flying, then a 2-1 home success over a Salisbury side starting the game with two Hawk old boys, tall ones, up front. You know how that usually goes.
It has to be said, though, that they were two of the more not-really-living-up-to-expectations old boys. Robbie Matthews won player of the month in his short time simply by dint of being the tallest, and thus easiest to pick out, in a uniformly dreadful side. His partner for this game, the well-travelled Charlie Griffin, also had a short, dimly-lit loan stint with us ten years ago and, having plundered plenty for his previous clubs, was known by we Hawks as that bloke who could seemingly score everywhere but Westleigh Park. Of course he then came back to WLP a year later with Chippenham and scored. The git. This week, he did it again. Double git.
Two minutes after we had been celebrating Scott Jones’ 12th minute opener, Griffin rose several feet above everyone else to meet a corner and plant it home. Grrr. Why..I…oughta! *shakes fist* etc. Talk about taking the wind quickly out of our sails. Ideally we’d have had several weeks to laud Scotty’s goal, as it was a real peach.
When you consider that most people talk of him as a player plucked from the Wessex League who runs his rattlers off for you, it kind of does a disservice to the touch he is sometimes capable of. The long pass came over his shoulder, but he caught it with his right instep as though it were a feather dropping onto Ted Moult’s window sill.
Salisbury keeper Will Puddy scambled out, the marking defender moved tighter to his side, as Scotty held the ball like a sticky orb of double-sided tape on a massive tray. Just as the angles were about to be closed off completely, he let it drop, then flicked a lob high over the keeper’s six-signalling arms, where it bounced in slow motion like a wallet towards an open drain.
Like I say though, we didn’t have long before our uncontained delight was found a container. However, whereas in previous months we might have wilted at this early set-back, we pushed on, and eventually won ourselves a penalty. As with the Truro win, it was Christian Nanetti who won it, and took responsibility for taking it.
Now, perhaps I was a little harsh in suggesting our new hero was lacking a moral compass with regards his winning of a penalty at Truro. Considering I was speaking on a one-time real-time viewing, in much the same way the ref was when giving said penalty, and even with repeated video viewings, fans of Havant n’ Ville and Truro are united in being divided as to whether it was a dive, a stumble, a foul or whatever, I am certainly prepared to give Christian the benefit of the doubt. Especially as he has made my day. Twice. In a week.
Perhaps it is better to continue to link Christian to the style of play missing in the post-Fogden era. I once described Wes as “a kind of penalty-award soothsayer, putting himself about in bad tackle country and drawing out the nasties like a tighly bound wound dressing”, and that could apply equally to Christian. Once again here against Salisbury, he tested the defender’s timing, and the defender was found wanting. Once again also, here against Salisbury, he sent the keeper the wrong way with a confidence that is hopefully resonating throughout our squad.
If it is, it’s not quite filled them to the brim as the remaining 75 minutes were largely torture. You couldn’t complain about not getting value for money at WLP, as the second half appeared to go on for several hours.
Indeed, it required two goal-line clearances, one in each half (the first a foot tangling awkward one where nine times out of ten the defender would fall over and the ball bobble in over the back of his knee) to keep things in our favour.
Four minutes of injury time passed like solitary confinement, but when the final whistle finally blew, we jumped in the air with loud cheers. Not only that we jumped out of the relegation zone, FOUR places up the league table. That only serves to highlight how tight it is down there. However I’m glad it’s not a three from four scenario. Thurrock have already succumbed, and there are plenty of teams left who can’t relax over the remaining two spots.
We might not have finished the job, but as statements of intent go under the caretaking collective, we are clearly not going anywhere without a fight and the confidence is growing with each game.
Previously, on dubSteps
29aug11: Salisbury City 4 H&W 1