Missed chances prove costly for Havant

Debutant Craig Mullion
Debutant Craig Mullion
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Havant men have fallen further adrift of the EHL Conference West leaders after a cruel 1-0 defeat to Team Bath Buccaneers.

The division’s top side visited Havant College, having lost just once all season.

But the hosts – restarting their campaign after the winter break – gave the visitors a real fright, missing a string of chances before gifting their opponents a second-half winner.

And even the arrival of South African inside forward Craig Mullion – who made his debut – couldn’t prevent Havant’s fourth defeat of the season.

The result leaves them in fourth place in the table, 11 points behind the Buccaneers with seven matches still to play.

Team Bath’s game plan was evident from the first whistle as they gave Havant little time on the ball. However, it was Havant who had the first chance when Andy Pett was forced wide by Tom Skinner in the Bath goal and the ball missed the target.

Team Bath had their first chance in the 11th minute, but the opportunity was snuffed out by Andy Isaacs in the Havant goal.

The game was flowing from end to end, and Isaacs did well to clear the danger from Team Bath’s first penalty corner.

In the 24th minute, the Buccaneers won another penalty corner which, after a retake, was defected wide of the goal.

A turnover in the Bath midfield then allowed Jon Smedley to transfer the ball into the Bath circle and earn Havant a penalty corner of their own.

From the resulting set piece, Tom Murtagh drag flicked the ball disappointingly wide.

Pett forced another penalty corner before the break but Havant were unable to capitalise and the half ended scoreless.

The hosts started the second half well, but it was Team Bath who had the first chance, winning a penalty corner in the 39th minute that Isaacs had to deal with.

In the 46th minute, Pett saw his reverse shot well saved by old-boy Skinner in the Bath goal.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 56th minute.

Bath won their fourth penalty corner, and this time the ball was not moved to the top of the circle, but instead shifted wide to Johnny Kinder on the side of the circle.

He slapped the ball towards the goal, where Isaacs was caught out by the switch and allowed the ball to pass through his legs to give Team Bath the lead.

Havant responded and, a minute later, won their fourth penalty corner.

The ball was sent goalwards for a deflection from Craig Duffy, but a heavy challenge knocked him off balance and the ball went off for the 16-yard hit.

In the 62nd minute, Havant carved out another opportunity with a Pett left wing cross-shot across the goal, but there was no Havant forward on hand to get the touch.

The home side continued to push for a deserved equaliser, creating a treble opportunity shortly after.

Firstly, Duffy hit the keeper, the ball rebounding out to Pett, who sent it back for Skinner to save again. It again rebounded to a Havant player, but Sam Hatherley sent the third effort wide.

Havant threw everything at the league leaders in search of an equaliser, leaving themselves exposed at the back.

The visitors’ Tim Davenport had a hat-trick of chances just before full-time, putting each one narrowly wide of the Havant goal.

However, the Buccaneers held out for a slender victory – taking all three points away with them.

n Fareham’s Conference West game with the University of Birmingham was called off due to a frozen pitch.

They currently sit sixth in the league table – three points behind Havant.