Match Data 2003/2004
Bath City 2
Havant & Waterlooville 0
Southern League Premier Division - Sat Feb 14, 2004
The abrupt departure of Jim Rodwell on Thursday left the Hawks to juggle their defence again today, this time the roll of the dice putting reserve teamer Dan Turner alongside Jamie Campbell. Gary Connolly dropped behind the pair to act as a sweeper, and Jamie Ford and Chris Ferrett worked the wings. As a result, the Hawks formation again took on new form, an almost indescribable 5-3-2, or was it 5-2-1-2, or even 1-4-2-1-2?! that saw David Town in front of a Luke Byles/Geoff Pitcher combo in the midfield, all three supporting Jamie O’Rourke and Chukki Eribenne at the front. Quite simply everyone else was either suspended or injured.
Despite the makeshift feel to the side, no criticism of manager Dave Leworthy but a simple result of circumstance, the Hawks made an encouraging start. It was once again contentious refereeing decisions though that put a dampener on their initial enthusiasm, the first coming inside the second minute. O’Rourke attempted to bring down a high ball from the back, but City defender Steve Jones made a ham fisted attempt to beat him to it by two handedly wrenching him out of its path. The incident though went unpunished, Jones’s back to the referee, but would recur in conversation 43 minutes later when Campbell was dismissed for a near identical foul.
Three minutes later Gary Owers punched a free kick at Gareth Howells, and working overlaps up the right wing, Darren Hawkins provided Scott Partridge for the first of many on target shots. Eribenne then broke on the left to attempt a narrow angled shot across the face of the net. The effort eluded keeper Paul Evans, but also the goal, and eventually came to rest by the corner flag.
Bath came back quickly, and having raced up the slope of the pitch forced Turner into a hurried clearance that crashed into Owers and flicked up over Gareth Howells into the goal. It was an unfortunate turn of luck, but one that gave the hosts the impetus to fight for a rare home win. Partridge sent a thunderbolt inches wide of the post minutes later, and Owers too tried again as the Hawks defence were forced into several frantic clearances.
Decisions continued to go against the Hawks as they struggled through the half, chances coming few and far between. Partridge ran the show for Bath, allowing occasional forays for overshadowed strike partner Josh Jeffries. 25 minutes in the pair carved out a fine chance when Partridge ran the ball right across the edge of the Hawks box for a quick flick back that was head wide by Jeffries.
Seconds before half time a harsh decision saw Campbell sent from the pitch with a straight red after a fairly innocuous looking challenge halted Partridge on the left wing. Immediately the earlier missed incident between Jones and O’Rourke sprang to mind. For the Hawks though, the knowledge that another defender will miss three games is made all the more galling by Dave Leworthy’s revelation on Radio Solent after the game that the referee admitted to him at half time that he “may have got the decision wrong.” If luck does play a part in football, Havant and Waterlooville are certainly getting none of it at the moment.
Regardless of that extraordinary comment, the Hawks were forced into almost familiar territory through the second half, defending with ten men and making little forward headway. Bobby Ford was allowed to perpetually run free from the Bath midfield, picking out Partridge and Jeffries for easy passes. One such connection saw Howells make a lightning save to stop Jeffries with a rifled shot soon after the restart.
The visitors were forced into further hurried defending, with every one of Connolly’s hoofed clearances falling directly to Bath’s players to be pumped back into the Hawks box. Partridge miss hit an easy chance before a free kick saw the omnipresent striker close in on a curling ball snatched away by Howells at the last second.
Jamie O’Rourke raced ahead of the pack and lunged for a rare Hawks free kick bent away from the goal by Pitcher, and Bath substitute Frankie Bennett made his presence felt seconds after coming on for Jeffries with a low shot that snuck under Howells, but wide.
While Turner’s involvement in the first goal can only be described as unlucky, it was his mistake that set up City for their second. His attempt to cut short Owers’s forward header managed only to turn the ball into the path of Partridge, and the Bath man of the match snatched it away to run on and fire for the far corner across Howells in the 67th minute. The shot flew into the foot of the post, and ricocheted back across the goal landing just inside the opposite upright.
From then on the Hawks shut up shop, and played out a disinterested final twenty minutes with poor passing and no creativity. Bath’s focus on attack allowed them several more chances that either went high or wide, but a rock solid defence stopped any pretensions the Hawks had of getting back into the game.
Dave Leworthy was once again obviously frustrated when speaking on Solent after the game. He said that the 12th minute goal created a ‘nightmare start’ but that some players’ body language told him they were not up for a battle. He is ready to admit that his side is not working hard enough, but that they do have the skill needed to secure the all important top thirteen finish. He also related that he, “is in the hunt now, I am on the phone every day talking to players. I have told the squad if I need to get players in I will.”
Hawks HQ are willing to say that several new players have been approached to fill positions right across the squad, but fans can only hope that they arrive to flesh the team out before irreparable damage is done to the team’s table position. It can only be encouraging though that Leworthy’s acquisitions so far, albeit loans, have made a significant impact. The future is still looking bright, but appears to remain, literally, just around the corner.
Chukki goes close with an early chance
Dan Turner shadows Scott Partridge
Chukki looks for a shooting chance
Jamie O'Rourke and Jim Rollo
Geoff Pitcher. Fetching blue socks courtesy Bath City
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