Fleet 1-2 Havant & Waterlooville

For the third time in recent succession in this fixture, it was the away team who took the points as Havant’s dream start with two goals in the opening five minutes proved the difference.

Fleet strove to get back on terms and spent the best part of the hour leading up to the final whistle probing and attacking but it was the Hampshire side who prevailed.

Incoming for the Fleet on the teamsheet were Chris Solly, Jack Paxman, Ben Chapman and Craig Tanner while Havant were able to name former home defender Sam Magri despite pre-match doubts on his fitness.

And the visitors got into their stride straight away, with a goal on two minutes when a Sido Jombati slip saw striker Tommy Wright able to capitalise; he skipped over the Fleet defender and with only Josh Gould to beat made no mistake.

And it was 2-0 only three minutes later. Scott Rendell had just whipped a ball across the box that Tommy Wright missed by a whisker but it was recycled back across towards the near post where Rendell bundled it over the line.

Fleet’s first response came on eight minutes via Greg Cundle’s ball into Alfie Egan and the Fleet midfielder rasped an effort on target but Ross Worner pushed it away.

It could have been 3-0 after 13 minutes when Havant’s pressing put the Fleet defence under pressure and Billy Clifford found Wright at the far post once more. He slid in on it but fortunately for the home side, this time it went the wrong side of the post.

A short corner offered Fleet the next opportunity when some neat buildup on the edge of the Havant box produced some space for Chapman and his 20-yard effort skimmed the top netting. Penalty appeals were then heard from the Havant dugout as Clifford and Josh Gould both challenged for the ball, Gould toppling the midfielder in clearing the ball out of his box.

And Chapman was close again just before the half-hour mark, taking down a raking pass from Jack Paxman, speeding towards the box and firing an effort just off target.

Frustration mounted for the Fleet as they tried to take the game to Havant but the ball just wasn’t sticking for the front runners or else coming to nothing via an unfortunate bobble or slightly miscued pass. Egan had another good effort four minutes before the break, striking a weighty shot just over but clear chances just wouldn’t fall. Similarly Chapman and Tanner had further incursions into the Havant box strike a white shirt or were cleared.

The response Fleet needed came on the stroke of half-time, Lee Martin taking up a position on the edge of the box as first Cundle and then Poleon steered it towards the skipper and he then slipped in-field to get it on to his shooting foot, where he curled a fine shot past Worner to reduce the arrears.

Fleet began the second-half with purpose, Lee Martin beginning where he’d left off with a twist and low shot that Worner just about gathered before Dominic Poleon got there. At the other end, Wright had space to turn a header goalwards from 10 yards but planted that on to the roof of the net.

A huge shout for handball came in the 52nd minute when Tanner’s accurate long diagonal pass set Lee Martin free down the right. He raced into the box and his shot at goal was blocked by a defender who appeared to handle the ball on the floor.

Fleet were turning up the pressure and some incisive close passing on the edge of the box earned a corner as Egan’s shot was deflected behind into a noisy Plough End.

Egan continued to try his luck in front of goal and drew another save from Worner at close range with an effort from the right of the box on 64 minutes before Wright grazed Gould’s fingeretips at the other end with a low drive past the post.

It was Havant’s turn for a spell of pressure and a couple of corners caused anxiety before being scrambled away while Chris Solly had to make a superb tackle to recover after his own clearance had been charged down.

The action kept switching, however, and from a powerful Paxman run through the Havant defence, Chapman crossed for substitute Rakish Bingham who edged his chance just wide. Bingham then flicked a Tanner corner on to the far post but there was no red shirt to apply the finish.

Bingham was the main man again five minutes from the end when a pass in behind found Lee Martin ahead of the visitors’ defence. He squared it, it ran clear of Romain but Bingham met it, turning it just wide.

The Havant bench were up in protest moments later.As the visitors found space on the break, Solly’s tug on Jack Roberts was whistled by the referee without giving an advantage and the ball found its way into the back of the net from a Wright shot. Paul Doswell and his entourage remonstrated loudly with the officials but the whistle had clearly gone some moments before the ball struck home.

Five minutes of added time ran short for the Fleet, who couldn’t find a way through, to inflict a first defeat for 2021/22 and eyes turn now to the opportunity to get the points total climbing once more at Hampton.

EUFC: Gould, Solly, Jombati (Bingham 62), J.Martin, Egan, Paxman, Chapman, Cundle, Tanner (West 86), L.Martin, Poleon (Romain 74). Subs: Haigh
HWFC: Worner, Passley, Oastler, Magri (Gobern 62), McCarthy, Rooney, Clifford (Wall 66), Newton, Adebowale, Rendell (Roberts 66), Wright. Subs: Baggie, Searle
Attendance: 1,214

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