West Leigh Park, Havant
If you were asked to name the vital ingredients for success in a team making up for lost time in a late dash for the play-offs, you might throw in phrases like ‘unity’, ‘team-spirit’ and ‘collective will’. All good, chest-out, ‘there’ll-always-be-an-England’ kinda stuff.
A concept you might leave aside is one involving yer goalkeeper sticking his fist within a five inch radius of a team-mate’s schnoz. You would be even more likely to leave it aside if this fantastical scenario were to theoretically occur actually on the pitch actually during the course of a game. The training ground you can let slide, to a certain extent; out of sight of the fans, out of the mind of the fans; boys-will-be-boys, and so on. Yet, despite John Hartson trying to teach us, a few years ago, that nothing breaks up interpersonal tension like a heavy toe-end upside the chin, it is not exactly what supporters want to see from their team.
Colour us fourteen shades of dismayed then that it turns out our goalkeeper Aaron Howe’s guidebook to team morale apparently includes a step-by-step set of photographs detailing how to cram your knuckles into the confines of your centre-half’s startled mush.
So, anyway, that was our 1-1 draw away at Basingstoke on Easter Saturday. It was as though one of our supporters had offered up a prayer to their deity, asking “if we’re not going to make the play-offs Lord, I beg of you, show us a sign.” Assuming this was God’s response, you have to admire His creativity, and not just for the Universe and that.
Flippant as I might be about it, it is embarrassing and, needless to say, it was Nathan Ashmore who found himself between our sticks for this game against Weymouth. Aaron will apparently face the shadowy cabal that is the H&W disciplinary committee later this week with early conjecture suggesting that a single black ball in the hat will mean he has to paint the stand in the close-season, whilst two would see him tarred, feathered and displayed in our car park as a warning to others.
Anyway, this forehead-slapping sideshow aside, we had a game against some old rivals to look forward to. Mind you, games against Weymouth aren’t quite the turbulent epics they once were (see my reportage for our away fixture at the Wessex Stadium for further details of those), not now they are plummeting through the divisions like a cannonball down a laundry chute. So rapid is their descent one wonders if they are now dispensing with the pretence of being a football club and concentrating on skeleton bob and luge. As a result where once they brought at least a hundred fans with them today their showing barely reached double figures.
You can hardly blame them though as they came to West Leigh Park an already relegated side, and an exceedingly young side at that. The keeper Michael Neish appeared to be so pre-pubescent that he may well have arrived at the ground on a BMX having come straight from a local heath where he’d spent most of the morning poking the carcass of a dead rat with a stick. Perhaps it was the trauma of this that caused his severe problems with kicking and collecting crosses.
To be fair to him though, he did make several at-feet and at-stretch interventions as, like at Weston-super-Mare, we treated the stricken and demotion-haunted with kid gloves whilst they were ripe for a mullering; particularly as Weymouth largely shot themselves in the foot for both of our first half goals.
In the sixth minute, panic in the Weymouth defence caused Cameron Mawer to attempt an impossible back-pass that Neish didn’t have time to do anything else but collect with his hands. As such we were awarded an indirect free-kick inside the box at about a 40° angle. Given the charge down from what was less than 10 yards, it was very much to Mustafa Tiryaki’s credit that he launched a shot from Ian Selley’s soft tap that zipped past the outside of the wall and yet still remained on target, bruising the far top corner of the net.
After that we dominated possession and territory, yet squandered all of our good work, until a minute prior to the interval. Breaking free, Wes Fogden caused the keeper to commit early and as they tangled up in each other like the shoelaces of the bullied, the ball bobbled to Muzzy who was faced with a gaping goal and no defensive pressure. Thankfully rather than an attempt a grandstanding drop-goal type thwack, he pushed the ball firmly in as though sinking a long putt from the edge of the green.
Weymouth headed in their goal a minute after the re-start causing the sunlit calm of the hitherto Easter Monday stroll-in-the-park to be suddenly sucked in by 800 swiftly inhaling bum-holes. The small collective of Muff mentalists got all excited but it never really felt like they had a second goal in them. That said, we always know that we have a potential howler in us.
As such, it was a great relief when Muzzy Tiryaki completed both the win and his hat-trick with another scorching shot, this time from just to the side of the ‘D’. Muz has put in several good shifts lately and it was great that his hard work was rewarded here with goals and lots of ‘em as he probably hasn’t scored as many as we would have liked, at least in the league. That said, it was his second hat-trick of the season, although his first came in a Hampshire Senior Cup gimmee at Hythe and Dibden.
So, as such, how it stands is this. It’s all the fours. Four games to go. Four points from the play-offs, and four teams between us and Staines in that final berth. To my mind, there are too many variables in there to contend with, but you never know. The late charge continues this Saturday when we go from the ridiculous to the sublime, as long-crowned champions Newport County visit.
They have lost two games in thirty eight. If we can make that three in thirty nine then, well, the adrenaline really will be pumping and we’ll have given ourselves one hell of a chance.
Previously, on dubSteps:
31aug09: Weymouth 0 Havant & Waterlooville 1