Match Data 2004/2005
Havant & Waterlooville 1
Dean Holdsworth (Ford, 86)
Gavin Holligan (Byles, 61)
Neil Passmore (Aherne-Evans, 23)
Jason Bowen (Jones, 49)
Carl Wilson-Denis (O Sullivan, 80)
Sam O Sullivan
Havant and Waterlooville launched into the new season at Westleigh Park this afternoon with a 1-0 victory against Newport County. The Welshmen brought a strong and determined side to the game, but excellent defending and Dean Holdsworth’s seventh minute finish were enough to provide three points for the Hawks. New defender Tom Jordan started in the side that saw James Taylor and Gavin Holligan alongside Holdsworth at the front in an all out attack.
Dave Leworthy ended the hot debate about his starting eleven by naming a 4-3-3 formation that saw Jason Chewins, Neil Sharp, Tom Jordan and Alec Masson across the back with Dave Town, Neil Champion and Geoff Pitcher behind the front three. Bobby Howe was ruled out because of continued problems with the groin strain that caused his early exit at Bashley last Sunday.
The Hawks went for the jugular from the whistle, Chewins racing forward on the left wing at any opportunity to cross and Dave Town mixing among the strikers. Holdsworth was on target inside sixty seconds when Holligan worked a space for him to fire from the edge of the area, and six minutes later the ex-Premiership star put the Hawks ahead.
He earned a corner on the left after some fancy footwork put the visiting defence under pressure, and Chewins’s lofted curve ball drew out keeper Roger Freestone, who missed the catch. Taylor was awkwardly placed to latch onto it, but managed to chip a delicate shot over his shoulder that Holdsworth made sure was going in with a header on the line.
The Hawks continued to go all out and dominated the first half hour of the match. Jordan lashed a volley over the bar when Holligan and Champion combined to set him up from the wing, and Chewins also fired inches too high. The Exiles were finding it difficult to contain the side they beat 3-0 at Westleigh Park in January, with further efforts from Holligan and Pitcher keeping Freestone busy.
The formation differences gave the visitors and extra man in the midfield, and they eventually began to coordinate themselves - but inaccurate crosses left main striker Carl Wilson-Denis little to work with. Nathan Davies got a high shot off after Jason Bowen rolled the ball back to him in the 26th minute, setting the trend for following efforts from Lee Phillips and Scott Morgan that also missed the target.
Masson was forced to concede a corner with an awkward clearance just after the half hour, and Bowen’s ball was pushed out for substitute Kevin Aherne-Evans to rifle over yet again. The Hawks were also guilty of spurning chances, but Taylor would have scored had he connected with Champion’s cross after the club captain barged his way through several defenders to send the ball toward Super Jim.
Four minutes into the second half Newport suffered a setback when influential ex-Swansea and Birmingham midfielder Bowen was forced to retire, but his replacement Gethyn Jones came close with a hurried shot on the end of a long run five minutes later.
Jamie Moralee could have made claims for a penalty on the hour after he tripped his way past Chewins in the Hawks box, but he stayed on his feet and struggled to release a harmless shot. Newport began to ascend and started to look worthy contenders as the half progressed, but Wilson-Denis remained off target with efforts provided by Phillips.
Responding to the increased pressure, the Hawks took off Holligan and brought Luke Byles into the midfield to return to a more conventional 4-4-2. The Hawks’ defence though remained stout and fended off every attack from the Exiles, each one of the four performing excellently in a tight unit that also noticeably boosted the confidence of keeper Howells.
Holdsworth tried to deflect a long ball goal wards on an increasingly rare Hawks forward run in the 68th minute, but found the side netting by inches. Wilson-Denis continued to frustrate the visiting fans when he powered a pass from Moralee past the post, and Aherne-Evans could have tested Howells but dithered too long, having to pull the ball back for Davies to sky once again.
Holdsworth chased down a long nothing ball and contesting it with Scott Young earned a free kick from the corner that Town lofted quickly across the box. Masson managed to deftly turn it goal wards and peeled away dismayed when Jonathan Coates cleared what looked like a surefire goal off the line.
Despite their continually frustrated efforts, the visitors remained calm and for the most part in control, causing a nail-biting conclusion to the season opener for Hawks fans. Several penalty area melees had local hearts in mouths, Darren Jones shooting into the side netting from one such incident and Byles tearing in to clear a loose ball after Howells lost hold of a close range shot.
Five minutes from time the Hawks introduced further strength in the midfield when Jamie Ford replaced Holdsworth, pushing Town up front with Super Jim. The focus though was firmly on the integrity of the back as Newport continued to batter the Hawks defence. Phillips, Young and substitute Sam O’Sullivan all tested Howells before an agonising two minutes of injury ended for the Hawks, who brilliantly remained impenetrable against the flurry of attacks.
Newport certainly ran the second half of the game, and but for some woeful finishing could easily have shared or taken the points. County Captain Young wasted the visitors’ final chance when he attempted to drive a close range shot straight through Howells, who stuck out a leg to block the last ditch effort.