Westleigh Park, Havant
This last week and half has been all about the 2-1’s, with two defeats of that detestably close-run kidney followed by a WIIIIIIIIIN by that most glorious of margins.
This short-notice mid-week fixture gave us a quick chance to put right what last week went wrong. We were playing the most disliked club in the Conference South, Farnborough FC, who have somehow, despite being run by convicted fraudsters, clowns and the kind of dickheads who rip off their creditors and yet get a persecution complex when people show the slightest frustration at the fact it’s the second time it’s happened at Farnborough within the last decade, been allowed to finally start their season. Why anyone would do business with them is beyond comprehension. However the Conference have passed them fit to start four weeks late, and thus this midweek fixture was re-arranged from its original date, on the first Monday evening of the season.
Betting firm Paddy Power seem VERY keen to do business with them, by which we mean ‘exploit their financial crisis’. They bunged them heap-o cashy-nice-nice in return for ‘Boro prostituting themselves in a publicity stunt that made our league look like a Cub Scout jamboree. The press release suggested the players had changed their names by deed poll (yeah, course they did) to those of the biggest stars of world football, past and present. Thus their keeper Kevin Scriven, our custodian in the Cup run days, was now apparently to be legally addressed as Gordon Banks. The tribute act was to stop there though, the car crash and glass eyeball not being in the contract, thankfully.
Elsewhere in the squad were Diego Maradona, David Beckham, George Best and the like. Sigh. It was just an offensively immature way for a once proud (I’m sure they must have been, years ago), senior football club to be going about their business. Although the true scandal of it all was of course that amongst this fantasy squad, these superstar names, they had not found room for a “Tim Hambley”. Shameful. Truly shameful.
That Nic Ciardini joined us from Farnborough in the summer may partly have been motivated by his disgust at this reprehensible omission. I don’t know, I haven’t asked him, but I’d imagine it must be that.
For all their talk of being a club now living on the breadline, they have a pretty decent squad available to them, all of whom clearly don’t mind being made to dance like monkey puppets for a classless bookmaker. To combat these players now forced by the Conference to be themselves, we played only Sahr Kabba up front, but despite having plenty of bodies in the midfield, Farnborough dominated the early part of the game, looking much the better passing side. However, there was no money shot for all this delicate foreplay. Our shiny new loan keeper, Ross Fitzsimons from Crystal Palace, was not overly troubled. When chances eventually came, they fell to us, with Sahr Kabba having a lobbed finish flagged as offside and smacking a header just wide of the post. Dan Strugnell also went close, while Farnborough’s Adam Doyle almost clattered into the roof of his own net with a meaty sliced clearance that ended up car-parked.
However, the best chance of the half came right at the death of it and it fell to ‘Boro, Dave Tarpey having time and space to place his shot easily past Fitzsimons and doing just that, but also the far post into the bargain.
The second half kicked off and our Havant ‘Ville fellas hit their stride as their confidence grew. Perry Ryan’s long range shot skidding wide was as much a declaration of intent as Hitler’s invasion of Austria. More of this was to come. Our approach play was getting more and more sophisticated but it took an error by a Farnborough defender to garner our opening goal. Capitalising on it quickly, as is his general standard, Christian Nanetti got to the by-line and slid the ball to the edge of the box where Ciardini was waiting to slam the ball home in off the post. He’s been threatening a strike like that for a while and he was clearly delighted.
Modern tradition dictates that players don’t celebrate goals against their former clubs. Nic honoured this by turning his sturdy, steak-house frame through a giddy cartwheel and bouncing around like a toddler on a trampoline. Splendid. Take that tax cheats.
Losing Christian Nanetti in the second half to injury was a bit of a blow – hopefully he’ll make quick recovery as he’s had a tremendous start to this campaign. Replacing him with breaker’s yard operative Eddie Hutchinson and also substituting Sahr Kabba’s buzz with Dennis Oli’s honest plod was, we felt, a sign that this was going to be an attritional last quarter hour. Happily, as soon as we thought that, we increased our lead, with Ryan Woodford supplying the crisp near post header from Ciardini’s corner to take us to two-nil.
Another loan signing, Jonte Smith from Crawley Town, came on and looked busy, creative and a very tidy addition to the squad and although Farnborough succeeded in nabbing a consolation, it came in the final minute and thus there was no time for them to deny us our well-earned three points.
Stuff to work on, stuff to delight in, give me a fit Christian for Saturday and I think we can go from strength to strength.