Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Havant & Waterlooville 1 Dover Athletic 1

Conference South
Westleigh Park
att. 594

Of course, as fans of omens and the superstitious will know, as soon as you spend a few paragraphs extolling the virtues of an abandoned game, lauding how 60 minutes was as good if not more value for money than some full 90’s, you’ve kind of written the script for the fixture redux.

Here we convened, 75 hours after the first go was brought to a premature halt, to take this game to a finish. Sadly, Saturday’s game now is but a figment of our collective imagination, a ghost game, an event the record books would tilt their head away from and pointedly snub if they were to pass it on the street. This is what we now have to show for Havant ‘Ville vs Dover in the 2012/13 campaign…

In terms of scripting the future, perhaps giddily overstating the Hawks’ dominance in the lost game made it inevitable that a rejigged Dover XI, cast as lifeless bystanders in Saturday’s effort, should grab their second bite of the cherry with greater relish and it took them only nine minutes to take a lead, Harry Ottaway finishing off a very effective Dover break after controlling the early proceedings.

After this it was clear a message was taken to the Hawks to remind them Saturday’s goal no longer counts and it wasn’t in fact one-each. Thus a positive approach to deficit reduction was then taken with the head of steam gradually building in our favour as half-time approached. Around the half-hour mark it was much like Saturday’s performance, as everything began to click, Christian Nanetti skidded a handsome shot just wide to signal “relax guys, a goal is coming”.

It came with five minutes of the half remaining, a Chris Arthur corner being met beautifully by Alex Grant to directly the ball into the far corner where it nestled smugly as a big noise boomed from behind the goal. Three minutes later Arthur swung in a free kick from the same flank where Ollie Palmer’s header flicked off the bar.

At half time, we thought, mmm, if we can keep this momentum up, we can have these Dover types – surely the ‘several hours on a coach’ legs will kick in and we can kick on. Sadly it wasn’t to be, with Dover having marginally the better of an attritional second half in which both sides seemed to be be concerned with soaking up threat rather than providing any. Still, a home draw against a side guaranteed a play off spot would, six-eight weeks ago, have been met with no little fanfare. We’ve travelled a long way, confidence wise, in a very short time.

Sadly for me, despite the fact the Hawks have two fixtures remaining, I am unable to make either game so that’s it for me, and thus the match reportage on ‘Destination Havant ‘Ville Departing Waterloo’ is also at an end. Certainly a much less dramatic denouement than last year’s vital final kick, but I wouldn’t toss the last three months or so back in just for a tension filled final week. It seems like only a few days since I was thinking “ah, I can’t make the final game – what if it’s another ’three points needed to stay up’ scenario?” so to be in with a mathematical shout until now, with only 180 minutes left of the campaign goes way beyond my expectation.

Once those games are done, I shall try and encapsulate a season of two halves without getting myself at it too much for next season. We’ve done that before, and cautious optimism is, in my view, a much better bet. Still, this remains a work in progress and the sky may well be the limit.

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