Defeat for Havant in opener to new season

Pol Sams Irazola
Pol Sams Irazola
Matt Cox scored for Havant. Picture: Keith Woodland

Havant give leaders Exeter a big scare

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Merijn van Willigen believes there were positives to take despite seeing his Havant side suffer an opening day 2-0 defeat at Bath Buccaneers.

Havant made a dreadful start to the contest.

They conceded the opener inside two minutes as they failed to deal with a cross which allowed Ed Horler the opportunity to beat Ben Cowling in the visitors’ goal with a well-placed shot.

Bath might have gone further ahead in the first 10 minutes after making a fast start, with two other good chances that flashed across the face of goal, but there was nobody there to tuck away the loose balls.

Havant won their first penalty corner in the 16th minute, which was charged down, while the retake was easily saved by Tom Skinner in the Bath goal.

But Havant were beginning to find their form as the interval approached, with Pol Soms Irazola the liveliest of the Havant forwards and threatening to find the equaliser.

The Argentinian almost found the net after good work from Connor McLaughlan and Todd Freeman, only for Irazola’s shot to crash back off the upright.

Mike Deller-Merricks so nearly gave Havant the perfect start to the second half, just failing to get a stick on Freedman’s whipped centre as he dived in to make the connection.

But just on the hour mark, Bath doubled their advantage as Horler bagged his second, slotting home with a low drag flick from a penalty corner.

While Havant were aggrieved by the original penalty-corner decision, they were further frustrated seconds from the restart after the ball hit a defender’s foot in the Bath circle, only for play to continue.

But despite their best efforts, the visitors were unable to force a way back into the game as they started the new campaign with defeat.

Havant’s director of coaching, van Willigen, said: ‘It wasn’t the ideal start for us but Bath are a tough side to play against.

‘We didn’t start the game very well, and to concede a goal so early proved to be expensive.

‘It was disappointing to go a goal down so early.

‘But I felt we grew into the game after that and we certainly had chances to get the goal back.

‘We’ve got a few new players this season but we have used pre-season to try to bed them in.

‘But it will take time. You can tell it’s a team that has not played together very much.

‘There are a few things to work on and that will come with a few games.

‘We are building for the future and it gives us a chance to build for the next few seasons.’