Havant & Waterlooville 1-4 Fleet

An excellent second-half performance after a solid opening 45 minutes brought Fleet their sixth straight away win and extended the lead at the top of the Vanarama National League South to six points.

At a ground that has seen Fleet struggle to score let alone win in recent seasons, and against one of the pre-season favourites for promotion, the victory counts as another important feather in Daryl McMahon’s cap.

For all the superlatives this season, Fleet haven’t quite scored as many as some of their rivals, but this four-goal haul has made the goals-for column look almost as impressive as the goals-against.

McMahon restored Dean Rance to the line-up at the end of his suspension, meaning Robbie Willmott was relegated to the bench while Michael West didn’t make the squad.

And Havant sought to unsettle their higher-placed opponents in a first-half that was tight and competitive. Matt Paterson almost got on the end of Warren Cummings drive forward but Fleet scrambled that one away while Jordan Parkes won a free-kick two minutes later but sent that high of the target.

Fleet’s passing was at times too much for Havant and Matt Godden’s 13th minute strike that went just wide was the result of decent approach play. But Fleet still had to contend with Harry Medway’s forays down the flank and the guile of Shamir Mullings and in a somewhat fussy approach from the referee saw three bookings in the opening spell, with John-Paul Kissock, Tom Bonner and Rance all seeing yellow.

None of that was of concern on 21 minutes, however, when the red shirts took the lead. Goalkeeper Ryan Young rather awkwardly tipped a dipping ball over the bar and from the corner, delivered to the far post, Godden was in space to head it low into the corner of the net.

Parkes and Godden combined again moments later with the Hawks defence back-pedalling but that effort was off target before Young intervened to prevent a second Godden header from finding its way over the line. Brian Stock then sent a shot just wide for the home side who did get forward on numerous occasions but lacked the invention to get past Fleet’s back line, while the midfield were quick to close down the Hawks’ danger men.

The second half began quietly, with the referee interrupting whatever flow the game had with a constant stop-start approach to the smallest of misdemeanours. Fleet woke up when Rance sent in a powerful drive from 30 yards that Young did really well to halt. But then the visitors got a crucial second on 56 minutes. A through ball failed to be intercepted by a sleeping hawks defence and Parkes accepted it gleefully, tucking it home for 2-0.

The goal gave a confident Fleet the platform on which to grow and eight minutes later it was 3-0. Pressure in and around the Havant goalmouth eventually told when Parkes’ initial shot was well parried by Young but only as far as Godden and he prodded home the loose ball.

Havant had looked defeated at 2-0 but the third knocked the stuffing out of them completely and Fleet imposed their passing game, drawing cheers from the travelling fans. A Matt Fish cross into Danny Kedwell was hacked clear and both Parkes and Godden again had efforts blocked or scrambled clear.

The home side did breach the home defence with five minutes left when Paterson saw off the challenge of two Fleet defenders and got a shot away that snuck inside Brandon Hall’s post but it was the one and only time Havant had even a half glimpse at the visiting goal.

They did up the pressure for the final couple of minutes but it proved their undoing as, on the break, Fleet made it 4-1 when substitute Danny Haynes sped away with the ball, got away from two defenders, and finished neatly.

Fleet can extend their lead at the top to nine points with their game in hand on Tuesday against bottom club Weston-super-Mare – and don’t forget the free admission at Stonebridge Road!

EUFC: Hall, Fish, Howe, S Lewis, Clark, Bonner, Rance, Parkes, Kedwell, Godden (Cunnington 79), Kissock (Haynes 74). Subs not used: Miles, Acheampong, Willmott
HWFC: Young, Medway (Blanchett 46), Cummings, Stock, Strugnell, Monthe, Boco, Donnelly, Paterson, Morgan (Swallow 72), Mullings (Hayter 59). Subs not used: Azeez, Clifton
Attendance: tbc


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