Match Data 2003/2004
Welling United 1
Havant & Waterlooville 1
Southern League Premier Division - Tue Sep 16, 2003
Welling on a Tuesday night again. An annual midweek fixture local enough to attract a strong away support for the Hawks, last night being no exception. Five years into life in the Premier Division subtle constants are starting to reveal themselves through the perpetually evolving line up of teams and players. Directions to grounds become familiar; tea bars gain reputations for their burger quality; and Welling’s shop fails to turn out a club badge once again. Surely the most important component of a supporters’ kit behind the replica shirt, and a regular souvenir for away fans? Apparently not in North West Kent. But I digress.
Chukki Eribenne got the shooting under way in the fourth minute with a drive over the bar after he escaped on the left. Coming down the slope of the pitch in the first half, the Hawks took control in the early stages, Chukki again trying with a second shot minutes later that deflected away off an unsuspecting Danny Slatter. Bobby Howe followed that with a free kick after the unusually free running James Taylor was tripped by Tim O’Shea on the edge of the area, but he curled it over the wall and well wide of the post.
The Hawks went ahead in the 20th minute after Taylor chased down a long ball heading quickly for the by-line left of goal. Sprinting ahead of O’Shea he captured it with inches to spare and then took it past two defenders before spotting Eribenne arriving on the far side of the goal. Poking a low cross just in front of keeper Glen Knight, Super Jim provided Chukki with a gift of a ball and an easy tap in to put the Hawks ahead.
The Wings won a corner straight after the restart, followed by a dangerous long throw, but unlike recent similar incidents the Hawks kept their concentration and defended the attack. The reply did come though, eleven minutes later. Again a long ball was at the root of Welling’s surge forward, Paul Booth chipping it through to Bristol Rovers loan signing Tobi Jinadu. He dragged the ball away from Gareth Howells on the left of the area, forced him to commit, and then sent the ball from a narrow angle into an open net.
Two minutes later the Hawks came close to retaking the lead when Eribenne raced forward to keep the ball away from Knight on the edge of the six yard box. Having created an opening he passed back to Shaun Wilkinson, whose rifled blast was only prevented from striking gold by O’Shea lashing out at it as it passed him. Moments later Wilkinson fired wide when Chukki held the ball up for him again.
Brett Poate dropped a long ball ahead of Howe in the 35th minute, and his cross whistled in front of Eribenne with the merest hint of a hand ball virtually on the line. At the other end Austin Berkley pushed a similar effort across the face of the goal, but it was high and drifted long.
Outrage signalled the start of the second half when Taylor was denied what looked like a legitimate penalty claim, being brought down from behind by Berkley as he looked for a shooting opportunity in the box. Hawks fans were incensed seconds later when a much weaker tackle saw a free kick awarded to the visitors in the midfield. Omnipresent for those opening moments, Berkley head the set piece away.
The Hawks continued to attack, with Poate and Eribenne firing wide before a superb cross from Champion allowed Taylor to head back across goal where Wilkinson tried to bundle the ball in. Knight clawed at it as it hung on the line, and managed to hook it out at a stretch with the travelling fans behind the goal screaming that it had passed the line. Wilkinson saw another chance fly into the boards when Ford struggled the ball through the home defence, and further crosses kept the bulk of the play in favour of the Hawks.
The closing stages of the game unfolded much as they had on Saturday. The wing switching diagonal play from the Hawks’ midfield kept Welling well on their toes, but despite a hatful of chances the ball refused to go in. On their part, the hosts looked dangerous at times, but rarely produced finishes that challenged Howells. Booth did come close when put through one on one in the 80th minute, but Gareth produced a lightening fast reflex save and batted the ball away.
Many present considered the draw a positive conclusion to the game, but with the Hawks the better side for much of the ninety minutes three points were certainly within their grasp. Either way, over the last few games the team have united tremendously with obvious awareness of positioning, and are now playing some truly exciting football. After a faltering start the Hawks find themselves now only four points off the top of the as yet still young league table. It’s great to again leave matches listening to people talking about the thrill of the game rather than the disappointment of apathy. It’s all good, good, good fellas.
Alec Masson receiving a crunching tackle
Super Jim in the air
Click thumbnails for larger pictures
All photos by Dave Haines