One of the most criminally inept piece of refereeing you are ever likely to witness on a football field cost City the chance of rescuing a deserved point against Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday. Trailing to a ninth minute goal, despite dominating the second half, it looked as if City had grabbed a lifeline when Darren Edwards raced clear only to be clearly tripped by desperate keeper Scriven several yards in the area. The only difficult decision referee Mr Williams should have faced was whether or not to send the keeper off, but to the stunned astonishment of all connected with City (and bemused relief of the entire home contingent) instead he booked Edwards for diving. This was just the pinnacle of an afternoon of incompetence and baffling decisions by the official which could be directly attributable to the game threatening to boil over on a number of occasions. The game itself saw the home side on top for the first 20 minutes before City began to exert themselves on the game only, in the end, to fall just short of getting something from the game.
Unsurprisingly Havant, under new manager Shaun Gale after Ian Baird defected to league rivals Eastleigh earlier in the week, started strongly and only a last-ditch interception by Steve Jones – starting the game in place of injured Scott Rogers – prevented Baptiste from putting them ahead on five minutes. It only took them another four minutes though to score. A hanging cross from Taggart deceived Chris Holland which allowed Pacquette to fire past Paul Evans at the second attempt, having seen his first headed effort blocked by the keeper. City did respond with a couple of chances of their own, Steve Jones pulling a shot wide and Scriven blocking Mark McKeever’s effort with his legs, but they were still chasing shadows when Havant got the ball into their half. The bizarre award of a free-kick on the edge of the City box after 18 minutes – luckily it came to nothing as the wall did it’s job – showed that the referee was beginning to lose control of the game – he even booked a Havant player for taking the kick too quickly. Tempers were beginning to fray – Lewis Hogg and Baptiste squared up moments later and then a late challenge saw Adie Harris raise his hands to Jordan, who threw himself to the ground theatrically. City had now largely weathered the Havant storm although Taggart should have done better from Harkin’s cross, heading tamely at Evans. The half ended with two good chances for City, Scriven was quickly off his line to deny Dave Gilroy after he had beat the offside trap and Edwards saw his close range effort from Sekani Simpson’s cross deflected over the bar by a defender. The referee awarded a goal kick.
City continued their improvement into the second half, although for all their possession – the game was now largely being played in the Havant half – they couldn’t create any clear-cut openings. Holland headed a McKeever corner – one of a number City earned early in the half – wide and a Jim Rollo cross almost deceived Scriven – the backpedalling keeper pushing it over the bar at the last moment. A neat build-up from the Hawks by Pacquette, Harkin and Oatway ended with the latter forcing a good stop out of Evans. For a short spell the game was end to end, City responding to this Havant effort with a good move down the right that saw substitute Phil Walsh elect to lay the ball off for Hogg rather than shooting, only to over-hit the pass and allow Scriven to gratefully fall on the ball. Straight up the other end Pacquette’s 18-yard shot was held by Evans at the second attempt. After this spell the game quietened down again – although the next bizarre refereeing decision was never far away – with the only nervous moments coming from home keeper Scriven’s frequent wild excursions out of his area. One such venture was almost capitalised on by Walsh but – fittingly – just ended with him receiving a caution from Mr Williams. However, it looked as finally City would get the chance to earn a deserved point a minute from time only for the referee to easily trump every incorrect assessment he had already made over the Edwards ‘dive’. There was still time for McKeever to fire a 20-yard shot straight at Scriven (and get booked for a wild challenge on Pacquette) before the referee got a rare decision right by blowing the final whistle.
After last weeks poor performance at Truro City that ended with a single goal victory, City played much better this week only to be on the wrong end of the same scoreline. Although they could justifiably lay a lot of the blame at the door of the referee, they also were responsible for the sluggish start and failure to cut out the cross that lead to the only goal. After this they came up against a side clearly out to impress their new boss and for all their possession clear-cut chances were few and far between. The defeat – just City’s second of the season – leaves City still in 3rd place but now six points behind the two unbeaten sides so far this campaign, Eastbourne Borough and Lewes.