Havant hammer home advantage to Nail draw

Pol Soms Irazola, left, and Oliver Nail, right, were instrumental in the Havant fightback. Picture: Mick Young (122732-08)
Pol Soms Irazola, left, and Oliver Nail, right, were instrumental in the Havant fightback. Picture: Mick Young (122732-08)
Matt Cox scored for Havant. Picture: Keith Woodland

Havant give leaders Exeter a big scare

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Havant struck three times in the final four minutes to snatch a National League conference west draw with Cheltenham at Havant College on Saturday.

As the unbeaten West Country outfit lost their discipline following a hotly-disputed yellow card, the home side pounced to grab a point with the late treble.

Teenage England international Oliver Nail netted the first two goals, before South African Satchi Reddi completed the comeback from a penalty corner.

Such a thrilling finale had looked unlikely earlier in the day, though.

Havant went into the match without injured forward Andy Pett – and then lost centre-half Gerald Cox and defender Jamie Askham at half-time.

By the midway point the home side were already 2-0 down, and it could have been more but for the heroics of goalkeeper Andy Isaacs.

The stopper dived low at his right-hand post to deny Cheltenham in the fourth minute, before twice watching efforts flash wide soon after.

The visitors did make their early advantage count in the 11th minute, though, as Alex Salmon was presented with an easy opportunity to net a soft opener.

Cheltenham doubled that lead within four minutes when Havant surrendered possession in a dangerous area again.

A foul on one of the Gloucestershire side’s forwards resulted in a penalty stroke, which Tom Cole coolly flicked home.

Craig Duffy had a brief sight of the visitors’ goal but former England under-21 international Matthew Fairburn kept Cheltenham on the front foot throughout the first period as Havant held on to half-time.

Coach Merijn van Willigen had plenty to say to the home players at the interval and they were late returning to the pitch.

When they did start the second period, though, they began positively.

Within two minutes of the restart, Nail had upended by Rooke but the Cheltenham keeper’s challenge was judged legal and the chance went begging.

Fairburn then beat the onrushing Isaacs to make it 3-0 and seemingly put the result beyond doubt.

But, with nothing to lose, Havant rallied.

After some fancy stick work, Pol Soms Irazola carved an opening, which came to nothing, before Mike Della-Merricks won a penalty corner.

And although Charlie Stubbings’ shot from the set-piece went high over the bar, Havant were growing in confidence.

They were given a huge boost when Cheltenham were reduced to nine men, with two players shown yellow cards in the space of four minutes.

The visitors reckoned the second should have been shown to a Havant player, and to rub salt in the wounds, Nail cleverly turned and chipped the ball home to make it 3-1 in the 66th minute.

Irazola then crossed for Nail to deflect home the second a minute later, before Reddi delivered the final blow to a bewildered Cheltenham side.

Havant remain second from bottom in the table, with four points from five matches.