Havant in controversial loss

Craig Duffy got Havant back on level terms after good work from Jonathan Pickett Picture: Mick Young
Craig Duffy got Havant back on level terms after good work from Jonathan Pickett Picture: Mick Young
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Merijn van Willigen was left to reflect on the decisions that cost his Havant side in their 3-2 defeat to league leaders Team Bath Buccaneers.

The Havant coach felt all three of Bath’s goals in their Men’s Conference West match-up might have been disallowed, while also conceding that one of his own team’s strikes might not have counted.

‘I don’t want to get into the situation of blaming umpires. But I think there were four goals that wouldn’t have been given on another day,’ said van Willigen.

‘It was tough to take but I felt the guys did really well. We had a bold approach to the game and put them under loads of pressure.

‘I was really proud of the way we did that.’

While the Havant coach was considered in his appraisal, it was a different story in the dying minutes of the contest, when van Willigen was yellow carded for voicing his frustrations at the officials.

The game started rather more brightly for Havant, as James Speke opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a drag-flick from a penalty corner that took a nick on its way past Tom Skinner in the Bath goal.

A courageous tactical switch saw Havant playing with three defenders and an extra man in attacking areas, and it worked in giving the home side the early initiative.

Bath drew level in the 21st minute with a hotly-disputed penalty-flick after the umpire spotted an infringement, even though Ben Cowling made a good save moments before the decision was given.

And the visitors snatched the lead three minutes later in more controversial circumstances, after Havant stopped for what they felt was an obvious free hit – only for Team Bath to play on and break quickly.

‘Everybody stopped playing expecting the foul,’ said van Willigen.

‘But three passes later, it was in our goal. It was a clear foul.’

While it was a serious blow to Havant’s hopes, they attempted to claw their way back into the contest, with Connor McLaughlan failing to convert a golden opportunity to level the scores.

But just past the hour mark, Havant had their equaliser as Craig Duffy deflected Jonathan Pickett’s rising reverse shot that bounced down off a Havant stick and was converted, despite Bath’s protests.

With just three minutes on the clock, Team Bath snatched all three points and consigned Havant to another defeat with a cruel blow as Jack Betenson struck his second of the game – again in controversial circumstances .

‘One of their players performed an illegal skill, which other umpires in other leagues would have picked up,’ said van Willigen.

‘They hadn’t considered it during the game but understood where we were coming from when we showed them the video after the game.

‘I certainly think we could have had the benefit of the doubt with at least one of their goals.

‘But we performed really well. The frustration is that we do that against the top sides in the league and don’t seem to do it against the lesser sides.

‘We have never lost sight of the fact that we are in a transitional year.

‘There will be other results this season where we will get an unexpected win but there will also be times when it doesn’t come together for us.

‘That is the hallmark of an inexperienced team.’