Perfect start for Havant after winter break

James Speke scored Havant's opening goal Picture: Mick Young
James Speke scored Havant's opening goal Picture: Mick Young
Matt Cox scored for Havant. Picture: Keith Woodland

Havant give leaders Exeter a big scare

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Havant began the new year full of positives – a win at Old Cranleighans, a clean sheet and another week at the top of South League premier division one.

It was the perfect start to 2016, as the visitors scored three without reply against tricky opposition.

And with Old Georgians’ match against Staines being postponed, the result means Ady Adams’ side lead the division by three points, albeit having played a game more.

Despite not being at full strength yet again, Havant came away with victory thanks to goals from James Speke, James Lester and Mike Deller-Merricks, to banish the memory of last season’s 4-3 defeat in the same fixture.

Coach Adams said: ‘I was a little bit concerned, with some of our bigger players not playing.

‘Last season Old Cranleighans were the start of our downfall.

‘We went there with four or five games to go and lost, so it was good to go there and put on that kind of performance and beat them 3-0.’

It was a week that also saw the arrival of former Pakistan international Akhter Ali.

He was brought in to add some experience in the absence of Sandeep Singh, who is playing in the Hockey India League.

Unfortunately, the striker was watching from the sidelines, as he fractured a bone in his hand recently and will be out for at least a fortnight.

Havant’s first goal was a well-worked deflection in front of the keeper by Speke.

This early lead inspired the visitors and they soon had a two-goal cushion when Lester smashed the ball into the roof of the net from the narrowest of angles.

‘It was a hell of a finish but if he’d missed I wouldn’t have been happy because there were people in front of the goal,’ added Adams.

Just after that, Old Cranleighans had a breakaway chance and should have made it 2-1.

Two yellow cards in the second period saw Havant go down to nine men but they weathered the storm and made it 3-0 with a few minutes remaining.

Excellent work from Indy Laly committed defenders and the goalkeeper, allowing Deller-Merricks to tap into an unguarded net.

Adams was pleased with the goalscoring threat of his side.

He said: ‘We didn’t win a single short corner in the game, which was a little disappointing. However, we came away scoring three goals.

‘I think last season everyone presumed we would win short corners and Sandeep score most of our goals, but we’ve proved that we’ve got goals from all over the pitch this year.

‘Winning 3-0 is very good but I think we would have been second on goal difference if Old Georgians’ game hadn’t been cancelled because they were playing bottom-of-the-league Staines.’

On Saturday, Havant hope to improve their goal difference and their lead at the top when they host Staines (1.30pm).