Wednesday 27 March 2013

Havant & Waterlooville 2 Maidenhead United 1

Conference South
Westleigh Park, Havant
att. 308

It would be fair to say we’ve had a good month. At the end of February we were in 18th position, having not won for a while but having picked up a few draws against top half sides. However it was always felt, having seen those games through and only lost to Welling in that sequence, we would need to capitalise on our less stressful set in March and early April, before another murder run at the back end of the campaign.

Safe to say, so far so good then as March has thus far seen four home wins (including a 5-0 thrashing of Billericay) and a hard fought away draw at Dover Athletic, having gone into half-time there two goals behind. We presently sit ninth, ten points from the relegation zone, and nine from the play-offs and, with rock-bottom financial basket-cases Truro due to visit Westleigh Park this coming Good Friday, we have power to add before April cheerily greets us with an away game against Hayes & Yeading on Easter Monday

I mention the play-offs as a marker of how far we have come rather than an expectation of a push. It is far too late for that, but it means that despite the maths, I am entirely relaxed about our Conference South status and, indeed, about our home form. At no point travelling down to this game, nor as I clicked through the turnstile, nor indeed during our second half performance which was so weak it looked like it’d been on hunger strike since Christmas, did I think anything other than three points were ours.

We made hard work of it without doubt, passes and clearances always seeming to end up at Maidenhead feet, our positioning not as solid as we have come to expect during this splendid string of successes, but nonetheless it is often said that the sign of a team doing well is a tenacity and ability to grind it out when it isn’t happening at an inspiration level. We’ve been spoilt lately on the latter score, so I’m certainly in no mood to criticse.

Indeed, our attitude to winning now has come a long way and our relationship with three-point bagging is similar to that between the Cookie Monster and cookies – the next one never seems that far away and is what we’re all about. That might sound obvious for a football team, but at the start of the season, we appeared to have lost our appetite for cookies altogether.

The manner of today’s victory was shaped by a dominant first half bookended by goalsch. After eight minutes, the incredible Chris Arthur, a man who could moonlight as a Japanese bullet train, hurtled past a Maidenhead defence looking like concrete-reinforced fence posts compared to Chris’s galloping stallion moves. He then walloped in a first time whelp that he made seem effortless, the clinical nature of it taking us all a bit by surprise.

The second goal followed on 41 minutes when Sahr Kabba was felled in the penalty box. The linesman seemed pretty convinced, immediately bringing the flag in front of his chest like a man ashamed of his nipples suddenly realising he was publicly topless. However, if we’re brutally honest, it was softer than foam-pies-at-fifty-paces.

Still, if you believe in natural justice, then the fact that Christian Nanetti hit a poor penalty which was easily pushed away by Billy Lumley will sort you out. However, it was to be rough justice as first to react was Steve Ramsay, slotting home swiftly before dancing and laughing round Lumley as though he were bullying a maypole.

In the end this was sufficient a cushion for us to be relatively untroubled by the poor performance during the second half. Another home win against Truro on Friday would certainly put Lee Bradbury in contention as Conference South manager of the month. Although given the apparent curse of said bauble, I’m quite happy for us to be satisfied with a job well done by a gaffer who has won us over relatively quickly after our suspicious minds greeted his appointment with extreme caution, and leave the awards for needier managers.

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