Title dream still alive for Havant

John Smedley impressed for Havant in their win against Birmingham University
John Smedley impressed for Havant in their win against Birmingham University
Katie Spooner is aiming high for City of Portsmouth Ladies. Picture: Keith Woodland

Developing talents can boost City glory bid

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Havant kept their title dreams alive with a sterling 2-0 victory over top-of-the-table Birmingham University.

Second-half goals from Sam Hatherley and Pol Sams Irazola ensured the Havant College side quickly put the disappointment of the previous weekend’s defeat to Guildford behind them.

And although they stay third in England Hockey League men’s conference west – they are just three points behind new leaders Team Bath.

With the visitors keen to return to the midlands with something to show for their efforts, a defensively-minded Birmingham allowed their hosts plenty of possession in the first half.

Chances were few and far between, however, as Havant – who gave a debut to 15-year-old Ollie Nail – attempted to pile pressure on the Birmingham goal.

Sunny Singh had the first in the ninth minute, with Havant winning their opening penalty corner.

The corner broke down but his shot clipped the outside of the upright to deny the fans an opener.

Building on their early pressure, Havant created several half chances but were unable to get shots on target or had the ball turned over at the last moment.

Against the run of play, Birmingham had their first chance in the 34th minute but the deflection from a cross went wide of goal.

Havant then won their second penalty corner of the match but Jon Smedley could find no way past visiting keeper Todd Dudley, despite having two cracks of the whip after the Birmingham No1 parried his original effort.

With the scores level at the break, Birmingham started the second half in a more aggressive manner.

And within two minutes of the restart they nearly took the lead, denied only by the shot-stopping skills of keeper Andy Isaacs and Mo Lester clearing the ball off the line while under pressure.

Three minutes later, play switched to the other end when Andrew Pett found Ben Mackey but his first touch let him down and the chance was gone.

It wasn’t long, however, until the stalemate was finally broken.

Winning the ball just outside his side’s 25, Hatherley initiated a three-man move with Smedley and Rodrigo Levy before picking up the ball again and firing past Dudley.

Before the home crowd had finished celebrating, Havant found themselves 2-0 up, with Irazola scoring his first goal for the club.

After winning the ball at the top of the circle, he was driven right and fouled.

David Howell, with the whistle, played a good advantage and Irazola entered the circle before slapping the ball into the far corner of the net.

The last 20 minutes saw a more determined Birmingham side, who won six penalty corners.

However, they were unable to take advantage of any of them, with Isaacs again proving up to the challenge of defending his goal as Birmingham’s six-match unbeaten run came to an end.