Havant & Waterlooville 5 v 0 Grays Ath
Grays Athletic’s three- game winning streak came to an abrupt end at Westleigh Park on Saturday. But if the Blues can take any solace then it can be from the fact that they met a promotion-chasing Hawks outfit that put on a top-class display. They would probably have beaten any Ryman Premier side on that performance; it was just unfortunate that it was Grays that had to be standing in the way.
Alfie Rutherford picked up the man of the match award after firing home a hat-trick but the supply he received from his team mates meant he was constantly finding himself in shooting positions. He opened his account in the 5th minute when a ball into the box wasn’t cleared properly and was soon knocked towards the Blues penalty box, where Rutherford was waiting. His pace took him past Luke Wilson and while Tangara was able to get a hand to the shot, he wasn’t able to push it away and the ball trickled into the net. Rutherford’s second came in the 26th minute after a dink over the Blues backline fell to Jason Prior who set up his Hawks team-mate, and Rutherford finished off the move by coolly slotting past Tangara.
The Blues never really got going and that was mostly due to Havant & Waterlooville playing some wonderful football. James Hayter was playing in some lovely balls and even had a crack himself in the 12th minute that wasn’t too far away. Theo Lewis also caused constant problems with his speed and pinpoint accurate passing. One such cross resulted in Arron Wickham having to use his body to cut out a powerful header from Dan Strugnell. Wilson had to knock away a Rutherford cross; Aghatise headed a corner off the goal line before being replaced injured in the 35th minute; while Wickham on two occasions had to mop up with the ball perilously close to the Blues goal. Tangara also had to deny Rutherford with a parry. The Blues defence were certainly putting a shift in to stem the Hawks flow.
Hawks manager Lee Bradbury had gone to see Grays at Hendon in midweek. Having seen the Blues win 4-0 he was aware that Grays did have the ability to score goals. Bradbury would have told his defenders the danger Keiran Bishop could pose and to keep him quiet. Even so the tackle that Brian Stock used to halt him in the 7th minute was probably not quite what the orders were; it earned him a yellow card meaning he had to be careful for the remainder of the game. A rare mistake by the Hawks defence, with Lee Molyneaux the culprit, offered a sniff of a chance. The poor clearance from Molyneaux was pounced on by Joao Carlos whose cross shot landed on the roof of the net. A Harry Watkins free kick from the left was headed away from danger by Prior and that was all the Blues mustered upfront. Bishop and Lheureux Menga were fed the occasional ball and certainly can’t be faulted for lack of effort. However Molyneaux and Andreas Robinson didn’t allow them any space and weren’t afraid to put in tackles to discourage the Blue forwards. Ryan Young, in the Hawks goal had very little to do thanks to the work his defence did in shutting the door.
Tangara however had to pull off saves to deny Prior and Lewis before he was picking the ball out of the net for a third time. Havant’s passing football was quick and pacy but the third goal, which came in the 39th minute, came via a lovely long ball by Molyneaux that was aimed directly at Rory Williams. He controlled the ball skilfully before running towards the Blues penalty box, unleashing a curling shot that screamed past Tangara. The half soon ended and it had been a Hawks masterclass. Grays couldn’t be faulted for the way they had played in the first half but they went in at the break with a difficult second period to overcome.
Havant had an early second half chance when a Williams free kick made its way to Rutherford but he dragged his shot wide. But it only took him until the 65th minute to complete his hat-trick and put his side 4-0 up. Prior, Hayter and Lewis were involved in the build up, as the attack started from defence, worked its way through the midfield before Prior held the ball up just outside the box, laying it off nicely to Rutherford. The Havant forward sped into the box, moved the ball to his right and then steered a right footed shot past Tangara.
The Blues did occasionally have opportunities to show their attacking prowess as well. Carlos played in a nice ball from the left that Menga was at least able to get under control, but before he could turn and shoot he was tackled by Molyneaux. Young had to save a Lartey Sarpong header before Ryan Mahal sent over a teasing cross that Luke Hornsley put over the crossbar. Hornsley tried his luck with a volley in the 65th minute that whistled wide. Menga was also able to use his speed to get within firing range in the 80th minute but placed his effort over the bar. The same player also turned Stock, overcome the challenge of Molyneaux before putting his effort over the reach of Young; but sadly also too high of the goal. Carlos also let fly from outside the box that only narrowly missed. But just like the first half they found the Hawks defence, marshalled by Captain Brian Stock, an impossible nut to crack and so couldn’t get close enough to create any clear cut chances.
The Blues defence didn’t fall to pieces, which under the circumstances it could well have done, as Havant passed the ball about with purpose. Rutherford teed off in the 75th minute after Lewis chipped a ball into his path. However Tangara got down to tip the shot away. Then Robinson played a long ball to the left flank that Rutherford controlled with his chest before sending it towards the far post. Prior’s header flashed past Tangara but the upright came to the Blues aid. A Stock free kick also went the same way, hitting the base of the post before being smothered by Tangara.
Havant completed the scoring in the 85th minute when Kwabena Osei blocked Matt Paterson’s initial shot but the ball was sent back across the Grays box where Ryan Woodford was able to head past Tangara.
While it was a bad result it was not in fairness a bad performance. Grays were not able to get going against a Havant side that showed plenty of quality. None of the Blues players can be faulted for not giving it a go – they simply came up against a Havant & Waterlooville team that showcased some wonderful football. The Blues now have a week off for Christmas before returning to action on Tuesday 27th December when they host Dulwich Hamlet. Kick off 3pm.
Havant & Waterlooville: Ryan Young, Dan Strugnell, Rory Williams, Brian Stock (Capt), Ryan Woodford, Lee Molyneaux, Theo Lewis (George Barker 68), Andreas Robinson, Jason Prior, Alfie Rutherford (Matt Paterson 75) James Hayter (Ben Swallow 68)
Scorers – Alfie Rutherford (5′, 26′, 65′), Rory Williams (39), Ryan Woodford (85)
Grays Athletic: Amadou Tangara, Arron Wickham, Ryan Mahal, Lartey Sarpong, Jordan Aghatise (Jamie Stuart 35), Luke Wilson (Capt), Harry Watkins (Luke Hornsley 50), Kwabena Osei, Lheureux Menga, Kieran Bishop, Joao Carlos
The result sees them still in the relegation zone but they ar just four points from safety whereas a few weeks ago it was ten.
They return to action on Tuesday December 27th at home against Dulwich Hamlet at 3pm.