Havant chief gears up for ‘biggest game’ in hot seat

Oliver Nail in action Havant. Picture: Mick Young
Oliver Nail in action Havant. Picture: Mick Young
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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Havant head coach Merijn van Willigen has described the relegation scrap with Guildford as the biggest of his tenure.

The Barncroft Way side are on a horrible run of form which has seen them go nine matches without a win in National League conference west.

They now stand just two points clear of the drop zone, with bottom-of-the-table Guildford visiting on Sunday (2pm).

And the gravity of the match is not lost on van Willigen.

He said: ‘It might well be my biggest game at Havant. We are feeling the pressure a little bit.

‘It would be ridiculous to say we can keep losing and it won’t matter.

‘It is a game we need to win and it is a game we have to win.’

Van Willigen’s team end the campaign with tough games against leading sides University of Exeter and Team Bath Buccaneers.

A defeat on Sunday and potential relegation would spell disaster for the club.

And the Barncroft Way chief has called on his players to respond.

Van Willigen said: ‘We are convinced we can do this.

‘We have proved on a weekly basis we are good enough.’

Although van Willigen has largely kept faith in his squad until now, he feels the time may be right to bring in some experience in the form of ex-England international Adrian Wilkinson.

He said: ‘We registered Adrian Wilkinson some time ago, so we knew if we got into a tight situation we could call upon somebody with experience.

‘Adrian can look back upon quite a successful England career.

‘He is still a goalscorer at a lower level but he obviously doesn’t have the fitness of the younger guys.’

Standing between Havant and a crucial triumph will be the imposing figure of Guildford keeper Simon Mason.

The former Great Britain international is one of the finest stoppers England has produced and, despite now coming to the twilight of his career, van Willigen remains wary of Mason’s quality.

Guildford won the reverse fixture 2-0 and the Havant coach is determined his side don’t give them a head start.

He said: ‘We are conscious last time we played they hit us on the break.

‘They are a very hard team to break down if they go a goal up, which is why it is crucial we don’t go a goal down because then it will become very difficult.’

Ollie Nail limped out of last weekend’s defeat to the University of Birmingham but will hope to shake off the foot injury ahead of Sunday’s vital match.