‘Beyond crackers’ – Havant & Waterlooville boss Doswell hits out at ‘crazy’ crowds ban

Hawks manager Paul Doswell. Photo by Dave HainesHawks manager Paul Doswell. Photo by Dave Haines
Hawks manager Paul Doswell. Photo by Dave Haines
Hawks boss Paul Doswell has criticised the 'crazy' decision for the club's FA Cup season-opener to be played behind closed doors on Sunday.

The National League South outfit take on Isthmian League Premier outfit Horsham in a second round qualifying tie at Bognor's Nyewood Lane ground (3pm).

Yet, despite the stadium being home to a step 3 team, fans are forbidden from attending the cup tie.

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The Hawks have been forced to use the Rocks' ground with the finishing touches being made to their newly-installed 3G surface at Westleigh Park.

Current guidelines state that fans of ‘elite’ non-league clubs - the three National League divisions - are unable to visit grounds for any FA Cup ties this weekend.

Locally, that means fans of National League North club Hereford are unable to watch their club at step 3 Gosport Borough.

'You couldn’t make it up, could you?' asked a bemused Doswell.

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‘People have accused me of being quiet on the subject. I’m quiet on the subject because it’s beyond crackers.

‘Bognor is a step 3 ground, they could have 600 supporters in their ground on Saturday yet we can have none.

'Horsham could have 600 - it’s absolutely crazy.’

Under the guidelines, the clubs who have agreed groundsharing deals at Westleigh Park - Portsmouth Women, Clanfield and Sunday League side AFC Trades - CAN have fans watching.

‘Those teams can have supporters in but our supporters are clearly more likely to catch coronavirus than those sets of supporters,’ said Doswell.

‘It’s absolutely senseless.

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‘The reason I’ve been quiet is because I’ve been speechless.'

Doswell did offer his thanks to Bognor boss Jack Pearce for offering Nyewood Lane as a venue to host the Horsham tie.

Heavy rain is forecast, though, and Hawks are fearing a possible postponement.

'I’ve got to say Jack Pearce has been unbelievable for this football club,' said Doswell.

'He’s helped us with a stadium improvement fund.

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‘Bognor are actually going to be training at our ground one night a week.

‘The relationship between the two clubs and certainly between Derek (Pope, Hawks chairman), Jack Pearce and between myself, he’s an absolute phenomenal guy in football.

‘Jack offered his ground and we gladly took him up on the offer.

'The only problem is we’re all looking at the weather forecast and it looks like there’s a storm coming in.

‘That would be the final nail in the coffin.'

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Summer signings Moussa Diarra (knee) and Godfrey Poku (ankle and calf) are both ruled out of the season opener.

But fellow newcomers Billy Clifford and Joe Iaciofano look set to be involved in the matchday squad.