By John Mead
This weekend we welcome Havant & Waterlooville to Meadow Park for the Season’s opener.
Havant & Waterlooville stepped into the national headlines four Seasons ago, when they famously beat Swansea City in the F.A. Challenge Cup Third Round, 4 – 2 in a Replay at their Westleigh Park Stadium. That led to a trip to Anfield and all Non League fans should remember where they were on that afternoon. With the news coming through that The Hawks had not once but twice taken the lead against the Champions’ League finalists it was a great day for Non League football. The Hawks eventually went down 5 – 2 on the day.
Last Season we met twice in the League. The away game was memorable for the walk-in goal Wes Fogden was allowed by Wood boss Ian Allinson after Ali Chaaban’s attempted return ball to the Hawks ‘keeper after a stoppage for an injury sailed straight into the net. A commendable decision given that Wood were six points adrift of safety at the time. The Hawks ran out 2 – 1 winners before Wood took the home match 1 – 0 on an afternoon when Havant were left with nothing to play for.
Today’s encounter will have no element of that with both sides keen to get off to a good start. Shaun Gale has strengthened his forward line with the signing of Mark Nwokeji, a twenty-nine year old striker who has enjoyed spells with Staines Town, Dagenham & Redbridge, Luton Town and AFC Wimbledon. Joining him in attack is the high profile Lee Peacock, a thirty-four year old, who was sold by Manchester City to Bristol City for £600,000 in 2000, before going on to play for Sheffield Wednesday, Swindon Town and Grimsby Town.
Both sides have been handed out footballing lessons Pre-Season. Whilst we were being run ragged by Arsenal, The Hawks were treated to a chance match with recently promoted Serie A side Real Betis. With Portsmouth stranded in America, Havant stepped in at short notice to entertain the Spanish giants who ran out 0 – 7 winners.
It is worth noting that 1800 fans turned out to see The Hawks play Portsmouth Pre-Season, which is about the same total of our high profile games against Arsenal and Watford combined. Let’s hope a healthy following make the trip to Meadow Park to make for a good atmosphere!