Sunday, 4 October 2009

Havant & Waterlooville 2 Eastleigh 2

Conference South
West Leigh Park, Havant
att. 1,451

I have a scientist friend and he told me recently that laboratory testing has finally allowed his contemporaries to split Eastleigh down into its constituent parts. It turns out they are 67% evil, 33% malevolent and 5% Cherokee (with a 5% margin of error). Now, that’s the kind of science I can get on board with.

I believe there was also a literature review of the evidence done to back this up further. Admittedly this was done by me, the literature being pages of this site printed off at work for reading on the can, but still the proof was irrefutable, especially when you consider the anecdotal evidence my terrace colleagues were all too willing to put forward. Some have claimed that to be a ‘conflict of interest’, others an ‘interest in conflict’, but there’s no smoke without fire, as over-eager door-to-door salesmen of smoke alarms are oft heard to say, when explaining their methods of demonstrating their merchandise. In court.

So, there you have it, cast in iron so thick it could be Eastleigh’s goalkeeping coach; them Beasts are a bad lot. However, despite this evidence, I am finding that as time goes on, I am caring less and less about all the funny business from a couple of years back. Mind you, it only takes a fiery derby, or something contentious happening off the field, to rake it all back up again and considering the still-managed-by-Ian-Baird Eastleigh are currently fielding Tom Jordan, Tony Taggart and Brett Poate, who could tell what might go off, even if Jordan was absent for this game.

Then again, the funny business of Jordan’s transfer aside, should we not remember that all three made important contributions to our famously successful season of two years back? Tony Taggart, of course, scored the winner at Notts County giving us our first Football League scalp. Then there was Brett Poate’s horror tackle and sending off at Swansea which whilst, if any kids are reading, absolutely dreadful, was also absolutely great, as it destabilised a Swansea side coasting to a 1-0 win, and after one of their chaps had been tunnelled for getting a bit punchy about it, we took our equaliser. He also then made important contributions to three of the goals in our replay win. Tom Jordan scored the game-clinching fourth that night and also put in an immense performance at Anfield, despite wanting to leave.

Does this mean we love them like veteran heroes now? Of course not, they now plays for Eastleigh and thems the rules. Mind you when someone did shout, after a crunching Poate tackle on Jake Newton, “Oi, you’re not at Swansea now” I did make sure to follow it up with big thumbs and “thanks again for that, by the way.” However, the ‘Judas clause’ does not always apply.

For example, Eastleigh have also recently signed bona fide Hawk legend James Taylor, and not for the first time. That initial time, our rivalry hadn’t had the Castrol GTX and dry newspaper thrown on it, so we didn’t think anything of it. And to be frank, nor do we this time, as Jim could turn up at West Leigh Park with two magazines of bullets criss-crossing his chest and war-paint haphazardly applied to his face, before taking out the inhabitants of the ‘Popular Bank’ in a homicidal frenzy, screaming “I always hated this bastard club” and we’d still be looking on wistfully remembering that hat-trick against Weymouth. 138 goals in 295 appearances (41 as sub) pretty much buys you diplomatic immunity within the four walls of the stadium that played host to your legendary years.

However, the widely held opinion was that Super Jim was now well past being at Conference South standard, and his loan signing from AFC Totton, currently working out of the Southern League’s Scarf & Vest Division (two levels below the Conference South), was bewildering. Mind you, Jim was a pretty old fashioned centre-forward so I imagine he still knows full well that the net is where he’s aiming at, even at the grand old age of, err, 35. Thankfully though, his contributions were minimal prior to his substitution here, indeed the contributions of his colleagues in the first half left a lot to be desired. Well, not desired by us, as once we hit our stride we supplied a quarter hour tour-de-force that left Eastleigh looking shell-shocked. Just the way we likes it.

After some early terrace sledging that he was bound to make yet another mistake against us, Eastleigh’s keeper Jason Matthews responded manfully by making yet another mistake against us. On the half hour, Luke Nightingale crossed a niggling ball to the edge of the six yard box where Matthews proceeded to experiment with a basketball technique, however his pat-down bounced back up to the space right in front of Mustafa Tiryaki’s forehead. He didn’t need telling what to do.

Nine minutes later, Luke Nightingale got the ball just inside the box and, most unlike him, larruped an angry shot that letterboxed Matthews’s fingers and delivered a sweet, sweet goal to send those of us behind the goal into rapture. Moments later, Wes Fogden should have made it three when going one-on-one with Matthews but he left it too late to unload and the keeper was able to smother it.

Despite that, these were good times, especially give the fact that Manny Williams was forced into absence having been kicked all over the shop in the last few weeks, his reputation preceding him. We got a clue that we might have to do without him when, during the pre-match warm-up, he was seen standing by the gate in a suit so sharp, he almost had my eye out with it.

So with striker Luke Nightingale surprising us with a goal that wasn’t either from the penalty spot or off his arse from two yards out, we looked, at half-time, on the cusp of handing out a leathering that would pass into legend and also provide a quick retort for any banter Eastleigh fans could hope to throw our way for years to come.

It couldn’t last. However good a start to a season you’ve had, a first home defeat to your arch local rivals will always be a heavy kick to both your tubular and your bells and, frankly, this 2-2 draw felt as much like a defeat as the same result against Bath earlier this season felt like a win. The first couple of paragraphs above betray the fact that we like, down at West Leigh Park, to cast Eastleigh as villainous and wicked. Yet, our second half performance meant that it is now all Hawk faces that adorn our “WANTED. For crimes against football” posters.

We have spent too much time in the past couple of years comparing ourselves to Eastleigh, and it appears our players are still doing it, as we came out for the second half as if trying to prove that whatever they could do (i.e. being a bit lacklustre, toothless and rubbish), we could do better. It’s not so much that they wanted it more than we didn’t actually appear to want it at all; that a dulcet derby win was a dog-drop we wanted off our shoes as quickly as we could scrape it.

It was getting so desperate, we might well have considered sending on Manny Williams to curl one in with his spatz. Not that he’d have been able to achieve much on his own as we were so awful, opportunist merchants could have made a killing on selling 2009 calendars as it felt like roughly this time last year all over again; sluggish, spatially clueless, panicky and clearly not wearing studs, given the amount of slips happening at unfortunate moments at the back.

Eastleigh did not need any more encouragement, Ian Baird having clearly done what he does best; shredding his charges at the interval as though they were incriminating receipts. They came out looking alive and ready to capitalise on any chinks in our armour only to find that we’d taken off that armour, melting it down to make rudimentary cutlery for a camping trip.

To start with, it looked as though we’d be alright but that all changed once Luke Nightingale was replaced on the hour by Shaun Wilkinson. After this it looked like our XI had only just met, with only Ryan Woodford emerging with any credit, as wave after wave of Eastleigh pressure heaved itself upon on our defence and deeply sat midfield (such as it was). Lets not brush this under the carpet; Eastleigh were far, far better than us in the second half.

Both of their goals came from Richard Gillespie, the first, after 61 minutes, an astonishingly cute finish from the by-line, his scooped shot going over Aaron Howe’s head and bouncing just inside the far post. We held them off for a further twenty three minutes but then Tony Taggart’s cross was guided in by Gillespie’s head, bringing more than a little joy to the travelling Eastleigh contingent.

After their equaliser, we felt that if there was going to be a winner, it would only come at the other end. This would have been difficult to take, especially when we made a lot of the fact that last season at their place in the Setanta Shield we had turned an 89th minute 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win. Especially if Taggs or Brett had scored their winner.

Thankfully it didn’t come, even though Aaron Howe in our goal was required to make a few saves, whilst a goal-line clearance was also needed. However, against the run of play we could have won it ourselves, substitute Robbie Martin, similar to Wes in the first half, missing a relatively simple chance when running in on the keeper.

Had we won, we would have, of course, loved it, but it really would have been daylight robbery and not even close to a fair reflection of the game. We won the first half, they won the second, so fair enough. Still, we remain 7th, and performances have largely not been like this. Clearly there’s plenty still to work on if we are to turn our useful bedrock of 20 points in 12 games into a sustained play-off challenge. Normal service will hopefully be resumed next weekend as we host Chippenham Town in the FA Cup.

Previously, on Dub Steps
25apr09: Havant & Waterlooville 2 Eastleigh 2
29nov08: Eastleigh 2 Havant & Waterlooville 0
01apr08: Eastleigh 1 Havant & Waterlooville 1
22dec07: Havant & Waterlooville 1 Eastleigh 0
09apr07: Havant & Waterlooville 1 Eastleigh 1

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