Honours even in derby clash

Shaun Baker, centre, turns to his Fareham team-mates to celebrate his opener against Havant Picture: Mick Young
Shaun Baker, centre, turns to his Fareham team-mates to celebrate his opener against Havant Picture: Mick Young
Matt Cox scored for Havant. Picture: Keith Woodland

Havant unable to halt Olton counter charge

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Mike Deller-Merrick ensured the derby-day spoils were shared as his late leveller saw Havant fight back for a 1-1 draw at neighbours Fareham.

The Havant man netted the equaliser just four minutes from time of an absorbing contest to earn his side a point – the very least they deserved from the National League conference west showdown at Henry Cort School.

Shaun Baker had put the home side ahead shortly before the interval, deflecting James Seager’s low drag flick past keeper Ben Cowling after a penalty corner.

But Havant pressed hard to get themselves back into the game and Deller-Merrick produced a cool finish, after good work from Gurmukh Bhamra and Craig Duffy, to pull his side level as Fareham keeper George Harris was finally beaten.

Fareham nearly grabbed all the points in the dying seconds when Paul Nicholls’ shot narrowly grazed the crossbar, but Havant could look back on their own missed opportunities to have won the game.

And while he admitted his relief at securing a draw, Havant director of coaching, Merijn van Willigen, was left with mixed feelings after failing to take maximum points.

He said: ‘If there was a team that was going to win that game, it was going to be us.

‘We had a few good chances early on so we could have been two or three up after 15 minutes.

‘But we didn’t capitalise on them, they scored and then it became a war of attrition.

‘The longer the game goes on, you wonder if it will happen. So when the goal did come, of course it was a relief.

‘But afterwards you think we should have done even better and there was more to be had.’

Fareham’s performance director, Ben Barnes, felt his side had not performed to the level he was looking for and felt the result was the right one.

He said: ‘It was a disappointing team performance.

‘I thought Havant played well and won the midfield battle, which put us on the back foot.

‘George Harris kept us in the game at times.

‘If we had scored with the last shot of the game it would have been unfair on Havant, so a draw was about right.’

Fareham edged the first 10 minutes of the contest with plenty of territorial advantage, but it was Havant who were creating the better chances on the counter-attack

Harris was called into action early on to produce a fine block from Todd Freedman, with Sam Broadhurst unable to convert the rebound – sending his attempt over the bar.

And Pol Soms Irazola might have done better soon afterwards, finding the side-netting with his effort when he looked well-placed to break the deadlock.

But Fareham also had their moments and tested Cowling just past the midway point as Seager and Alex Boxall combined, only to be denied by the Havant keeper.

The home side grabbed the lead with half-time approaching as Seager’s effort was diverted home by Baker from close range.

But Havant set about their task with real purpose after the break, forcing the excellent Harris into a succession of quality saves from penalty corners as the visitors turned up the intensity and began to take control.

Although the visitors were enjoying more possession, Fareham were standing firm with some gritty defending, and they also looked a threat on the break as they attempted to protect their slender lead.

And Seager might have done better with a chance to extend the advantage, failing to hit the target after Boxall found him in space with Cowling out of position.

With Duffy becoming increasingly influential, breaking up Fareham attacks and setting Havant on the front foot, the equaliser was still proving elusive.

But when Deller-Merrick controlled a bouncing ball and held his nerve, honours were even.

Meanwhile, both sides picked up big wins in their NOW: Pensions Cup first-round fixtures on Sunday.

Havant destroyed Crawley 8-0 as John Pickett (2), Indy Laly (2), Martin Gough, Connor McLaughlan, Broadhurst and James Speke were on target.

Fareham also romped to a 6-0 victory at Ramgarhia. Boxall (2), Nicholls (2), Baker and Chris Davey were the scorers.