Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Havant & Waterlooville

Eribenne (62) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

Danks (48), Brindley (85)

(0) 1

(0) 2




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Carl Palmer



Stafford Rangers (H) 25.8.03

The Pitmen finally chalked up their first win of the new season this afternoon at West Leigh Park with a surprising and hard-fought victory against a much-fancied Havant & Waterlooville side, playing the final half-hour with only ten men after a red card for Darren Simkin


Following their Tuesday night horror show at Hinckley United, manager Barry Powell made three changes to his misfiring side as Ashley Williams, Stuart Ryder and Steve Palmer all came back into the side as they replaced the injured Les Robinson, Kevin Seabury and Antony Maguire for the long trip down to the South Coast as Powell looked for a response from his side who had yet to win in their opening two games of the new season

Havant were some people's outside bet to challenge for the Southern Premier League title this season after building on last season's eighth-placed finish over the summer with a number of impressive signings such as David Town from Rushden & Diamonds and Chukki Erribenne from league rivals Dorchester Town to add to their experienced ranks. The Hawks had started the season in solid fashion, drawing 1-1 at Worcester City on the opening day before beating Dorchester 3-2 at West Leigh Park on Monday night. Joint managers Mick Jenkins and Liam Daish made only one change to the side that had been Dorchester, bringing in Town for James Taylor in a like-for-like swap up front

Roared on by another tremendous number of travelling supporters, the Pitmen reverting to a 4-4-2 system that worked so well in pre-season which some had questioned Powell's reasoning for abandoning it against Weymouth on the opening day after persisting with throughout the close season programme

It was the home side who were first out of the blocks, playing neat and direct football that caused the Hednesford back line problems in the opening ten minutes. Town and Eribenne were denied a chance on four minutes as Simkin cleared in front of his own goal from a James Ford cross before Aaron Skelton went closest to opening the scoring five minutes later as he headed wide of Ryan Young's far post after flicking an Eribenne cross just wide

A free-kick from Brett Poate tested Young's reflexes on fifteen minutes, as the Hednesford stopper confidently fielded the full-back's swerving free-kick from twenty-five yards out

The Pitmen were content to play on the counter-attack as the away side, with Karl Brown pulling the strings in midfield as he looked to set Mark Danks on his way at every opportunity with some incisive passing through the Havant lines. One such pass on twenty-one minutes set the striker away on goal, only fore his run to be halted by veteran defender Gareth Hall just inside the penalty area. To everyone's astonishment, the referee continued with the game and failed to award the Pitmen a penalty kick for Hall's perceived late challenge

Good football through the midfield from the visitors once more on twenty-eight minutes saw Simkin and Steve Palmer link up well to play Steve Anthrobus in, but his meek shot was easily scooped up by Gareth Howells in the Havant goal

Ryder was well off target with a header from a Brown free-kick on thirty-two minutes before Eribenne was pulled up for. late, late offside flag against him on the main stand side after he was played in behind the Hednesford defence by Skelton

Five minutes before half-time, another piece of incisive play from the Pitmen saw Brown and Carl Palmer play a quick one-two with each other to set Palmer free on the left-hand side of the Havant penalty area. The burly midfielder cut the ball back into the Hawks penalty area, where Anthrobus narrowly failed to turn the loose ball into the net as he agonisingly allowed the ball to skip across the six-yard box and away from danger

The hosts finished the half strongly as Town and Eribenne both fired narrowly wide of goal from similar positions just outside the Hednesford penalty area before the referee brought an entertaining first half to a close

The Pitmen could be pleased with their first-half efforts, showing more in the way of togetherness and spirit than that sown at Middlefield Lane on Tuesday night. This new-found confidence earned them the opening goal of the game just a few minutes into the second half as Danks finally got off the mark for the season after his summer move from Bradford City; an inswinging corner kick from Les Hines on forty-eight minutes caught the Havant defence out, allowing Danks to fire into the roof of the net from close range to give the Pitmen the lead

Havant made their first change of the game on fifty-one minutes as Chris Ferrett came on for Dean Blake, but the substitute's game was brought to a swift halt four minutes later as he suffered a horribly-looking injury after clashing with Simkin just inside the Hednesford half. The player was stretchered off with what was to be a broken leg as the Havant players and management demanded retribution on Simkin for his late challenge on Ferrett

Simkin - one of last season's guilty parties when it came to individual errors - once again blotted his copybook on sixty-two minutes as he handed the impetus to Havant with another moment of madness inside his own penalty area; chasing the pacy Town down, Simkin slid in and recklessly brought the striker down in the area as he shaped to shoot, giving the referee little option but to show the defender a straight red card and award Havant a penalty kick. Eribenne stepped up and fired past Young from the spot to equalise, despite Young's best attempts to keep the ball out with his fingertips

The Pitmen responded quickly to going down to ten men with a tactical substitution three minutes later as Chris Brindley came on to take his place in defence at the expense of goalscorer Danks

The hosts sensed a winner from the final twenty-five minutes and pushed on looking seal back-to-back wins at home this week; Eribenne fired narrowly over the crossbar on seventy minutes after Skelton had played the ball into his feet fifteen yards from goal, followed by a Young save to palm a Town shot away from goal three minutes later

This was to be Town's late contribution to the game as he was replaced by the prolific Taylor with thirteen minutes remaining as the Hawks continued to press home their numerical advantage

Anthrobus - now playing as a lone striker - lifted an effort over Howells' crossbar a minute later after getting the better of Hall in a physical battle to chase down a Carl Palmer pass, before Eribenne again wildly struck over from Poate's through ball

With the minutes ticking away, you sensed that someone was going to grab a late winner, as old stager Brindley once again came up with the goods for his home town team with five minutes remaining; another Hines corner was not dealt with sufficiently by the home side, giving Brindley time and space to nip in and head past Howells from close range after he had made a run from deep


There was plenty of time remaining in the game after a long stoppage for Ferrett's injury, with nearly ten minutes of added time played for Havant to get themselves back into the game. Taylor slimed the crossbar in the third minute of added time as he headed Bobby Howe's cross just over before Williams somehow got enough on the ball to deflect Taylor's late, late shot away from a certain equaliser. In the dying seconds of the game, one final ball forwards from Poate saw Neil Davis flick the ball on and appear to strike the arm of Williams, prompting penalty appeals from the home players, only for the referee to deny the due the closeness of the two players when the challenge was made

It had been a highly entertaining Southern League encounter that the Pitmen will feel that they earned all three points through sheer hard work and commitment, having developed a siege mentality following Simkin's red card. They return to Keys Park on Tuesday night to face local nemesis Nuneaton Borough, a side they have traditionally struggled again in recent years since the two sides resumed rivalries, looking to make it back-to-back wins for the first time this season

Havant & Waterlooville: Howells, Ford, Poate, Davis, Hall ©, Masson, Blake (Ferrett 51 (Champion 55)), Eribenne, Howe, Town (Taylor 77), Skelton      Subs Unused: Leaver

Hednesford Town: Young, Williams, Hines, Maguire, Simkin (62), Ryder, C. Palmer, S. Palmer ©, Anthrobus, Danks (Brindley 65), Brown     Subs Unused: Seabury, Swann, Dodd, P. Evans