Havant’s return to National League west conference started with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Cardiff & Met on Saturday.
Maciej Janiszewski scored a late equaliser six minutes from time to rescue his side a point in south Wales, after the hosts took the lead in the second period.
Despite Havant’s preparation for the game being hit by traffic on the M3 – with Tomek Bruml missing the clash after being caught in the jam – they started brightly at Sofia Gardens.
Mike Deller-Merricks broke through Cardiff’s defence down the right and looked to tee up Janiszewski in the circle, but the pass was intercepted.
The hosts soon came to life and won an early penalty corner.
Craig Duffy charged down the set piece to concede another corner.
Cardiff mustered a shot on goal, but Chris Bristow made a good save low to his right.
Havant soon won their own penalty corner following a smart piece of play down the left channel by Duncan Marsh, who used all of his experience to find a defender’s foot.
Jonathan Pickett’s effort was denied by the Cardiff goalkeeper, before a second corner was flashed wide of the post.
The game continued at a high tempo and Adam Bloomfield nearly gave the visitors the lead, but his effort was inches off target.
Cardiff then won their third penalty corner and Bristow was again forced to thwart a goal-bound effort – and the two sides went into the break at a stalemate.
Steve Lawson’s troops began the second period as they did the first.
Ethan Hoddle linked up well with Deller-Merricks, but again the hosts’ defence held firm.
Cardiff then went down to nine men after two green cards, but Havant could not take advantage.
And the Welsh club made the Hooks Lane outfit pay when they were back to full strength.
Havant were fooled for a penalty corner and Cardiff took the lead from the resulting rebound.
The away side pushed for an equaliser and got their reward six minutes from time through Janiszewski.
He pressed Cardiff’s defence to steal the ball off their full-back, before riffling home one of his trademark backhand efforts beyond the goalkeeper.
Lawson’s side pushed for a late winner in the closing stages and almost snatched all three points.
Indy Laly drove into the Cardiff circle and only missed a Havant stick by inches at the far post and the game finished 1-1.
It was a tough start to the campaign for the visitors.
They earned a draw against a Cardiff side who have finished in the top two in National League west conference in the past five seasons – and Havant were pleased to return to Hooks Lane with a point.
Havant next host the University of Birmingham on Sunday.