Havant ready to launch after winter of change

Raj Laly has taken the reins as Havant player-coach. Picture: Neil Marshall
Raj Laly has taken the reins as Havant player-coach. Picture: Neil Marshall
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Havant are eyeing a top-six finish as they begin their National League conference west campaign on Sunday (2pm).

The Havant College outfit entertain Olton & West Warwicks in what promises to be a tricky opener.

And after a winter of change on Barncroft Way, they are eager to get the ball rolling.

Havant parted company with coach Ady Adams at the end of last term.

Meanwhile, they have lost the services of key players James Lester, Sam Hatherley and Maciej Janiszewski.

The former needs to be closer to London City Airport after qualifying as a commercial pilot and will play for Tunbridge Wells.

Hatherley, whose south-coast studies have ended, and Janiszewski have moved to Old Loughtonians.

However, they welcome back Charlie Stubbings – following a spell at Durham University.

A former conference north player of the year, Stubbings is joined by Poland international goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski in committing to the club.

Havant have recruited Argentinian defender Federico Bertoni, while the global feel of the squad could be enhanced further with more signings in the offing.

Moves for Portuguese and Pakistani talents will not be done and dusted before Sunday's curtain-raiser, though.

Former skipper Raj Laly has taken the reins from Adams in a player-coach role.

He will be assisted by ex-Zimbabwe international, former Havant first-team player and under-18s coach Warren Gilmour.

Steve Lawson brings some much-needed continuity as he retains the role of team manager.

New chairman Chris Pickett said: ‘We remain very grateful to Ady for his contributions over many years and for the success the team experienced under his coaching and leadership.

‘I have nothing but respect for the commitment James gave to Havant over such a long time, too.

‘The results this season will determine where we will fit into a new league structure that comes into place in the 2019-2020 season.

‘A top-six finish is our objective. I am amazed and very excited by the quality of our under-18 players who are emerging and into contention for the first team.

‘We start with a difficult home game, though. Olton finished fourth last season and will present a stern test for our young squad.’

Havant’s pre-season has included wins over Tunbridge Wells and Chichester, a draw with Indian Gymkhana and defeats to premier division Reading and conference east Richmond.

Elsewhere in conference west on Sunday, Fareham travel to Oxford Hawks and Chichester visit Isca.

Havant’s premier ladies’ side got their South Club’s Women’s League division two season up and running with a 2-2 draw at East Grinstead II last weekend.

Under the new coaching team of ex-Poland international Patrycja Hyla and James Mead, they return to Barncroft Way on Saturday when they will entertain Woking (1.30pm).

Fareham opened their division three B campaign with a 2-1 win at Chichester.

They host Eastbourne at Henry Cort Community College on Saturday (1.30pm).