Havant suffer relegation

Cardiff & Met celebrate their winning goal as the Havant players realise their relegation fate Picture: Mick Young
Cardiff & Met celebrate their winning goal as the Havant players realise their relegation fate Picture: Mick Young
Matt Cox scored for Havant. Picture: Keith Woodland

Havant give leaders Exeter a big scare

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Merijn van Willigen insists he is ready for the fight to lead Havant back to the national league after their relegation was confirmed.

The Havant coach saw his team turn in a battling display as they attempted to avoid the drop from conference west but, ultimately, they were downed 1-0 by Cardiff & Met, who claimed the title.

The result consigned Havant to South Premier League next season –their first term outside of the national ranks in 26 years.

But it was a run of 12 winless games in the league – stretching way back to October – which was to blame for the Barncroft Way side’s demise as they were left to contemplate the end of more than a quarter of a century of hockey at national level.

And while van Willigen accepts his job will come under scrutiny, the coach wants to lead the challenge to go back up at the first time of asking.

‘There’s every reason to assume that people might evaluate your position when you get relegated,’ said van Willigen.

‘But there are still things to do and until someone calls me and tells me otherwise, I will be concentrating on getting this club back up again.

‘I’m ready for the battle.

‘There is a responsibility within the group and myself.

‘We are very aware that we are the people that put us in this position.

‘Havant have been in the national league for 26 years and we need to put that right.

‘We are taking a step back and we have to be humble about that, but I also think we’ve got a fantastic structure at the club.

‘We have got a commitment and a history and I wouldn’t be surprised if we come back up very quickly.’

While Sunday’s game ended in defeat, it was one of Havant’s better performances of recent times as Craig Duffy rattled the post early on.

That acted as encouragement for the home side. But despite a period of intense pressure, Cardiff held firm and then began to take control as the game headed towards the half-time interval.

The even contest continued after the break but as the hour mark approached, it was Cardiff who took the lead – with Jon Pickett bringing down a forward and earning himself a yellow card in the process.

But it was a double punishment for Havant as the penalty corner was then converted by Henry Eriksson.

That proved to be the difference between the sides, and while Havant showed plenty of character in a clash against the champions, they could not find the result they needed.

‘We had the bulk of the better chances in the first half against a team that have become champions,’ said van Willigen.

‘We are gutted having got so close but, realistically, it shouldn’t have been down to getting results in the final two games against good opposition.

‘We should have been safe long before this.

‘At the end of the day, we simply weren’t good enough to stay up.

‘The bad run we had has caught up with us.

‘Over Christmas, we ended up in a position where we weren’t title contenders and not really in relegation trouble.

‘We were in between.

‘Maybe we didn’t have that experience to pull on when we needed it and perhaps we were a bit naive at times.

‘But it probably took us too long to realise what was happening to us.’