Deller-Merricks in hat-trick blitz

Mike Deller-Merricks puts pressure on his Birmingham University opponent
Mike Deller-Merricks puts pressure on his Birmingham University opponent
Matt Cox opened the scoring for Havant in their defeat at Cheltenham.  Picture: Keith Woodland

Havant fall to defeat at Cheltenham

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Merijn van Willigen saluted Havant’s best display of the season as they crushed Birmingham University 5-0 to maintain their impressive run of form.

Mike Deller-Merricks helped himself to a hat-trick, while Pol Soms Irazola and an own goal completed the rout that keeps Havant level on points with league leaders Cardiff Met ahead of their showdown in two weeks.

Head coach van Willigen said: ‘It was outstanding – it was probably the performance of the season so far.

‘Birmingham are a lot better than their position and the scoreline would suggest.

‘They did incredibly well for the first 20 minutes and put us under a lot of pressure.

‘But we withstood that and dealt with it well and then we struck ourselves. It was really clinical.

‘They asked plenty of questions but our goalkeeper had an excellent game and showed why he is so highly-regarded.

‘But we’ve done an awful lot of work with our forwards in the past couple of weeks and it paid off.’

Goalkeeper Ben Cowling was forced into early action to keep the score level.

But it was Deller-Merricks who made the breakthrough in the 24th minute as he deflected a free hit from Jonathan Pickett past Tom Pinnegar in the Birmingham goal.

Cowling produced another excellent save shortly after to preserve the lead – and Havant grabbed their second in the 30th minute.

Ollie Nail fed Connor McLaughlan, who drove into Birmingham University territory to slip the ball past the keeper for Irazola to finish for an excellent team goal – sending his side into the break 2-0 up.

After torrential rain had threatened the game in the first half, the weather improved.

And Havant took control, although they were thankful to Cowling once again in the early exchanges.

Havant effectively put the game to bed in the 54th minute when Todd Freedman’s cross was deflected into his own goal by a Birmingham defender.

And there was no way back for the students on the hour mark.

Deller-Merricks gobbled up a rebound from the keeper for his second of the game, after good work from Gurmukh Bhamra and McLaughlan saw his shot saved.

It was fitting that the Havant striker completed the scoring shortly before the end as McLaughlan was denied again after another good run, but Deller-Merricks made no mistake from close range.

‘I didn’t even realise Mike had got a hat-trick until afterwards,’ said van Willigen.

‘The balls were flying in quite quickly so it was hard to tell who was on the end of it.

‘But that is something we have been working on.

‘Mike has taken that on board, got himself in the right positions and took his goals really well.’

Havant will be expected to seal another win when they face winless Guildford this weekend.

But van Willigen is keen to see his side maintain their momentum.

He said: ‘We need to play with the same intensity and keep the same standards now.

‘What we want is to be in a position where we play Cardiff Met and we can play for top spot.

‘If we are equal on points going into that game, it becomes very interesting.’