Match Data 2002/2003
Sutton United 1
Havant & Waterlooville 3
Football Association Trophy - Sat Jan 11, 2003
Sutton United aren’t a team the Hawks know a lot about. While some Ryman Premier teams have more than a passing acquaintance with their southern league neighbours, Aldershot and Billericay being two names that spring immediately to mind, the last encounter between the Us and either Havant Town or Waterlooville FC happened during the FA Cup back in 1975, when Sutton defeated the ‘looville 3-1 at Jubilee Park in a fourth qualifying round replay.
What the Hawks were aware of today was the fact that Sutton at present are third in the Ryman Premier, and on their own turf were favoured to win the tie. As has proved the case many times recently though, the so-called underdog Hawks can easily use their league position as a Trojan horse. No one at Westleigh Park saw the tie as a mammoth undertaking, although perhaps getting it played could have been. Matches as far up the football hierarchy as Division One were postponed today due to bitterly cold weather, indeed the temperature at Gander Green Lane by five o’clock this evening had dropped to a single degree above freezing. Two pitch inspections had been necessary to ensure the game would go ahead, and despite being frost free, the grass certainly wasn’t bobble free when the game got under way at 3pm.
It’s hard to criticise a playing surface given the conditions and the evident work that Sutton put in to getting the tie played, but with dips and lumps up and down its length the ball stumbled about the pitch for most of the game giving neither side much indication of where it intended to go. On top of that the Hawks were forced to contend with the late news that goalkeeper Aaron Kerr had been unable to make the trip down from the Midlands for the game. It seemed as though the game being on had caught everyone by surprise.
Steve May came to the rescue, the club’s goalkeeping coach donning the number one shirt at the last minute to bring his own self styled crazy world to an unaware Sutton. With ten minutes on the clock and the game still trying to stamp some life into its frozen feet, a curious clearance from Neil Champion sent May scattering across the box in a futile bid to prevent the first corner. Sutton put it in, the Hawks put it out, and a fast break ensued that saw the visitors threaten the home goal for the first time.
Sutton rose again, trying to assert an early domination, and May was called on to make a great stop on the edge of his area when Scott Corbett put through Mark Watson. Minutes later May halted Watson again with the help of Chris Ferrett, the Sutton forward this time provided by Danny Bolt. Tim Hambley saw a chance at the other end when goalkeeper Andy Pape stopped his lofted shot as it tried to sneak under the bar, but the Us retaliated again and would have scored but for Mark Fowler’s goal bound shot being cleared away by Alec Masson.
The Hawks were finding it difficult to build up quick passes on the bumpy ground, so it wasn’t a surprise that the first goal came from a swift aerial manoeuvre. While Howe sprinted away from the pack Blake picked him out from the half way line and dropped an expertly hit ball over his shoulder. Howe brought it down and from around the penalty spot fired past Pape before the keeper knew what had happened.
Watson meanwhile resorted to physical tactics to overcome his inability to get a shot through the Hawks defence. Time was added after he pushed Masson away from the ball and then clattered into May, downing the keeper for several minutes.
The day of unexpected events continued just past the half hour when James Taylor fluffed a shot he would usually expect to put home nine times out of ten blindfolded. Having rounded two defenders and then Pape, he was free to shoot into an open net and somehow managed to put the ball over the bar from ten yards. It was a mistake almost made worse when just before half time May nearly put a tricky free kick from Corbett into his own net, but at half time the score remained 1-0 to the visitors.
Into the second half Sutton were still finding it difficult to make final connections in the Hawks box. Able to bring the ball up the pitch and at times hold onto it outside the area for frighteningly long periods, the final through ball or perceptive header just wasn’t there. May was called on rarely to stop shots and the game continued at an ambling pace. Hambley almost found space to release a shot as the hour approached, but Matt Gray, putting aside his physical blundering first half presence to concentrate on some impressive football in the second forty-five, blocked it. The ball wend its way back out for a throw, sent quickly back into the fray by Champion, and Haughton from close range ducked the ball past Pape when collecting a flick by Taylor.
Four minutes later the Hawks added a third, riding high on the two goal lead, but fate again had a hand in matters. The Hawks were looking to substitute Neil Davis for Hambley as the team set up a free kick, but the linesman failed to attract the Referee’s attention before it was taken. Ferrett lofted in a perfect ball, Hambley rose above the pack, and Pape could only get his hands on the resulting header after it had crossed the line. Three minutes later the substitution did happen, and the Hawks were three goals to the good.
Sutton though were far from beaten and tried desperately hard to force their way back into the game right to the whistle. Bringing on Eddie Akuamoah to put three at the front with Fowler and Watson, it was eventually Nick Bailey who could have started their recovery. Fowler squared the ball to the wing from the edge of the box and Gray slot it back to Bailey in the goalmouth, but he got it tangled between his legs and May collected it from him before he could shoot.
In the 74th minute Watson found the net, having missed countless opportunities previously that had the home fans fuming. The goal was disallowed though, not surprisingly for a push on May, but ten minutes after that he did claim the consolation when Fowler and Bailey held onto the ball long enough eight yards out for him to get into an easy scoring position. One that looked offside to many people around the ground as well as the Hawks defence, who didn’t challenge him and stood amazed as the linesman flagged for the goal.
The goal infused the Us with renewed vigour, and despite the fact the Hawks were still two goals ahead going into a lengthy injury time, the match retained an air of uncertainty. Bailey went through, but offside, and Watson again had a heart stopping chance that he sent over the bar. Ultimately though the Hawks ran out easy winners, and while the achievements list is rewritten, the team, and the supporters, will look forward to Monday’s fourth round draw for the first time.
James Taylor misses out in the penalty box
Alec Masson waiting for a throw
Gareth Hall chases the ball
Dean Blake in an aerial collision
Tim Hambley up for the corner
Steve May in control at the back
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