Hawks 2 v 3 Cambridge City
Hawks 2 v 3 Cambridge City
Havant and Waterlooville thumped back to reality at Westleigh Park this afternoon where pre-season optimism melted into a nervous performance against opponents Cambridge City, who took away a 3-2 win with virtually the last kick of the game.
It was the visitors who took the lead in first half injury time when Lee Chaffey slammed home a rebound after a City corner, and straight after the break the side went two up from the penalty spot after Tom Jordan was controversially judged to have handled in the box, Darren Lynch converting.
But league golden boot winner Rocky Baptiste brought the hosts back into the game with a sublime twisting goal soon after, and the striker looked like he`d forced a draw when he equalised from the spot in the 87th minute, again in dubious circumstances, but City secured the win five minutes into injury time when Kalam Mooniaruk angled the ball home at the back post.
Having experimented with formations throughout the pre-season, Hawks boss Ian Baird returned to a traditional 4-4-2 for this opening game, retaining popular duo Tom Jordan and Neil Sharp in the heart of defence, flanked by Luke Byles and Michael Warner in front of keeper Shane Gore.
Justin Gregory, Tony Taggart, Fitzroy Simpson and Mo Harkin spread left to right across the midfield and Baptiste, who passed a late fitness test, partnered Richard Pacquette at the front.
Taggart`s early probing left wing run ended in a neat cross that shook the visiting defence, but Ben Bowditch`s fifth minute free kick gave the Hawks a similar scare when Chaffey connected at close range to head over the bar.
City continued to press and Bowditch put in another precise ball that keeper Gore beat Lee Roache to by inches. Taggart then wormed his way past City captain Glen Fuff with some excellent running, dragging the ball back for a soft attempt from Baptiste that Lilywhite`s keeper Danny Naisbit had plenty of time to get down for.
After the early chances, the game went quiet for both sides with hasty inaccurate passes creating a disjointed match until Byles picked out Gregory with a long diagonal that the ex-Stevenage left back put just past the post with a diving header.
Pacquette fired a chance shot straight at Naisbit after City failed to relieve Baptiste on the edge of the box, but despite good midfield work on both sides, neither front line could co-ordinate to captialise.
Harkin`s corners repeatedly dipped too soon, leading to easy clearances that were pumped back in high for Naisbit to claim every time. Pacquette did manage to scramble the ball home a minute into first half injury time, but the assistant`s flag was already raised. City`s effective set pieces helped them into the lead three minutes into first half injury time when Darren Lynch`s point blank header from another Bowditch corner rebounded off Gore for Chaffey to slam home from the middle of the box.
Havant and Waterlooville 0
Cambridge City 1
The visitors went further ahead straight after the break when the referee appeared to give hand ball against Jordan as he cleared a Chaffey free kick, and Lynch converted from the spot.
Tempers flared and the cards started to flow but a tighter second half ensued for both teams with the Hawks far from ready to roll over. On 55 minutes Byles slot the ball across the top of the box and Baptiste produced his trademark magic with a twisting shot that curled beautifully into the top corner well out of Naisbit`s reach.
Pacquette`s layoff set Taggart for a 20 yard drive that blazed past the post seconds later, as the hosts finally started to show some appetite, but Cambridge remained in contention and Bowditch broke quickly, outpacing Jordan and needing Byles to race in and block Lynch`s shot from the right. The pair then combined again when Lynch head a Bowditch free kick over the bar.
Both sides used all their substitutions, but the most dramatic came in the 67th minute when Baird replaced Jordan with Brett Poate, creating a five man midfield that exposed an uncomfortable looking back three. Into the last twenty minutes the home side`s urgency increased and City boss Gary Roberts brought off both his strikers to create a ten man defence.
The hosts were handed a lifeline three minutes from time when Fuff lunged across substitute Craig Watkins in the City box. Despite appearing to cleanly put the ball into touch the referee awarded the game`s second controversial penalty, and Baptiste fired home an equaliser from the spot.
With minutes to go both sides went all out to find a winner, and Lilywhite`s keeper Naisbit almost snatched the game when his free kick, launched from just outside his own box, crashed into the Hawks` crossbar over the head of a back pedalling Gore.
But City had the sting in the tail when substitute Kalam Mooniaruk angled a delicate finish past Gore deep into injury time after Bowditch`s initial attempt was blocked by the keeper on his line.
By Rich Self
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