Havant suffer shock losses

Keeper Ben Cowling had a busy weekend after Havant suffered two defeats over the weekend Picture: Mick Young
Keeper Ben Cowling had a busy weekend after Havant suffered two defeats over the weekend Picture: Mick Young
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Merijn van Willigen felt complacency may have played a part as Havant went down to a shock 2-0 league defeat at bottom club Guildford.

With Guildford losing all six of their previous National League men’s conference west games, many were predicting a relatively easy afternoon for Havant, after their impressive run of recent form suggested they were title challengers this season.

But Guildford had clearly not read the script, and after taking a first-half lead, clung on and added a late second to secure their first points of the campaign.

‘We weren’t at the races – not fully, anyway.’ said van Willigen.

‘There might have been a little bit of complacency but it’s hard to say.

‘Did we look at the table, see them on zero points and think it was going to be easy?

‘I’m sure the players will say they didn’t but we certainly didn’t play as well as we have in recent weeks.

‘I don’t think we hit the levels that we have in previous weeks but we were in the game.

‘We were creating chances but we never raised our level until it was too late.’

Havant made a shaky start but still created opportunities as Ollie Nail was unable to convert James Lester’s cross.

But their best chance of the half saw Martin Gough feed Gurmukh Bhamra, who span past a defender, drew Guildford goalkeeper Simon Mason but then sent the ball the wrong side of the post as he slipped at the vital moment.

Guildford took the lead before the break when Will Blockley saw his effort saved by Ben Cowling, but Tom Herring slotted the ball home.

Havant felt they had the equaliser early in the second period, only for the umpires to decide the ball had hit a Havant foot on the line.

And with Guildford protecting what they had, it made life difficult for the visitors as they attempted to find a way back into the match.

The game was up in the 68th minute, though, with Havant caught pushing forward, resulting in Duncan Marsh going one-on-one with Cowling to slam home the clincher.

‘Guildford got massively energised by the goal and then they were able to put eight or nine people in their defensive area and leave us to try to break them down,’ said van Willigen.

‘It became a war of attrition.

‘We thought we’d scored from a penalty corner but the ball struck a foot on the goal-line.

‘But maybe it will be good for us to get us back to working on things and getting back to what we were doing.

‘I think it’s a bit of a wake-up call. I think it flattered us a bit being in second place. So it’s down to us to continue to improve now.’

In a bad weekend for the club, Havant also crashed out of the NOW: Pensions Knockout Cup 24 hours later, after a 3-1 defeat at Bromley & Beckenham.

An own goal was the sum of their efforts, as Cowling turned in a fine display against a side who performed better on the day.

‘I don’t think anybody had any qualms with the result,’ said van Willigen.

‘If we had won, it would have been a travesty. They were just better and more of their players performed well.

‘I don’t think the defeat to Guildford played a part.

‘The players felt they had let themselves down a bit and wanted to make up for that performance.

‘But we were beaten by the better team on the day.’