Drop fears heighten as Havant fail to capitalise

Merijn van Willigen is left frustrated at the final whistle. Picture: Mick Young (14325-10)
Merijn van Willigen is left frustrated at the final whistle. Picture: Mick Young (14325-10)
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Havant have two games left to secure their National League conference west status following another devastating defeat.

Merijn Van Willigen’s side suffered a 1-0 home loss to fellow strugglers Guildford this weekend to leave them second from bottom in the table.

Mike Rippon’s 27th-minute strike – following a penalty corner – was the difference between the sides.

There was no way back for Havant, who now find themselves in the play-off position – one place above bottom side Fareham on goal difference.

And for director of coaching van Willigen, it was a case of missed chances proving so costly.

He said: ‘It is unbelievably tight down there and a tough situation.

‘As the weeks go by, opportunities get less and the pressure increases as you require that one result more and more.

‘I thought we started very well and for the first 25 minutes had the better of them. Quite clearly we were the better of the two teams.

‘But what has been our problem in recent weeks is we don’t put the ball in the net when we have our dominant periods.

‘A few of our players then switched off for a few seconds at a penalty corner and they scored what turned out to be the winner.

‘It was then a case of trying to break down an opposition with virtually 10 players behind the ball, sometimes 10 in the circle.

‘That is their right, but try as we might, we couldn’t break them down.

‘It was very frustrating and we also felt we should have had at least two penalty corners which weren’t awarded.

‘I spoke to the umpires after the game and the consensus was we should have received at least one but that is really, really disappointing.

‘This is not a story about umpires not giving us decisions, though. This is about us not capitalising on being dominant.

‘After those first 25 minutes the game became fairly even and it was in the balance – but they got the winner.’

Guildford made their intentions clear from the first whistle as they pushed two men high.

And it almost paid off after just 30 seconds as they robbed a Havant defender, and it took a good covering tackle from Jonathan Pickett to prevent an attempt on goal.

Havant received a bodyblow in the second minute, losing England under-18 Ollie Nail with a hamstring tear but recovered to start brightly.

The hosts had the first shot after slick passing down the left teed up Connor McLaughlan with only Simon Mason to beat, but his slapped shot did not trouble the former Great Britain keeper.

After 10 minutes, Havant were making good headway – penetrating the Guildford defence on numerous occasions, but they were not able to really create any goalscoring chances.

Then Guildford won their first penalty corner and a switched routine and shot by Rippon caught a defender’s stick in front of Ben Cowling and the ball flew into the net.

The second half did not see any further goals but, with two minutes remaining, Michael Deller-Merricks collected the ball wide to the left and his drive into the circle was met by a Guildford defender who slid in to tackle.

Deller-Merricks moved the ball into his body for a penalty corner but, to the amazement of the crowd, the set-piece was not awarded and defeat was the result.