Havant, last season’s Western Conference champions, got a taste of what potentially lies ahead in the new look National South League when Oxted beat them 3-2 – a scoreline that would have been far wider had the Surrey visitors turned their first half superiority into goals.
Oxted were East Conference Champions in 2017-2018 and runners up last season behind Old Georgians, so they were always going to be stiff opposition and this was certainly the case. The first half firmly belonged to the visitors, as Havant were a yard off the pace and slower to react.
It was all Oxted in the opening ten minutes. Havant did mount a few attacks in the first quarter, but it was evident that unavailabilities and injuries in the pre-season build up had put them firmly on the back foot. The hugely influential Matt Cox was among the players sidelined.
Oxted won two more penalty corners in the first few minutes of the second quarter and it was from the second of these that Oxted took the lead. Robert Mugridge deflected the ball over goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski [pictured above] in the 22nd minute in what was a well worked routine.
Havant slowly worked their way into the game and won the first of their six penalty corners, just as half time was approaching Oxted extended their lead, when an attack along the bye line saw Maciej save a shot on his near post, but the ball bounced up off his pads and Chris Webster made it 2-0.
The second half was a different affair and there were sustained periods of Havant pressure. Oxted became indisciplined with some crude stick tackling and rough play seeing three players win yellow cards as Oxted played long periods with 9 or 10 men.
Early in the half Havant won their fifth penalty corner, which resulted in Federico Bertoni flicked high into the net.
The play was now very even often end to end, but Havant had the numerical advantage as Oxted picked up yellow cards in the 51st, 54th, and 58th minutes.
Craig Duffy picked up a yellow card in the 61st minute, which did diminish Havant’s advantage slightly, but they put the Oxted defence under heavy pressure, but could not quite do enough to level the scores.
Oxted extended their lead after a poor clearance from a penalty stroke awarded against Maciej, who was adjudged to have pushed a visiting player in the back. Tim Guise-Brown converted to restore the two-goal advantage.
Despite this set back Havant continued to press forward and were rewarded in the 61st minute, after Charlie Stubbings had made a long and incisive run through the midfield, moving the ball to Indy Laly, who in turn centred the ball for Mike Deller Merricks to bundle it over the line. Havant continued to press hard for the equaliser but Oxted’s defence held firm.
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