LX v Havant Cavaliers

Sunday 9th Dec. 2012

Vice Admiral Robert Fitzroy RN, 1805 to1865, is best known for his early exploits as the captain of the hydrographic survey ship HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s epic voyages of natural historical discovery. However, during a long and distinguished career, he also served as an MP and was the second Governor of New Zealand, before devoting the latter part of his life and his entire personal fortune to pioneering the embryonic science of meteorology. The term ‘weather forecast’ was first coined by him. Sadly he died penniless, at his own hand, severely depressed by the public’s derisive response to the fallibility of his early publications. Perhaps he may be permitted a wry smile at his successors’ efforts 150 years later.

Sunday 9th Dec. is another of those winter days when a liquorice allsorts sky may mean almost anything. Our umpteenth visit to Havant is greeted by a chill in the air and a gloomy menace about the overcast. Quite understandably, the ladies decide this is not a day for standing about and have accepted a welcome invitation from Ken Veness’s wife Bea to enjoy some home comfort whilst he is umpiring. Then, as if preordained, the curtain slowly lifts and we are bathed in dazzling sunlight, just in time for photographs of the teams before the game starts at 1400. Havant find themselves a man short, so Peter Ross, our much appreciated long serving impresario for this fixture, gallantly volunteers to make up their numbers. Alan Jackson, now our only supporter, gazes impassively at the action, inscrutable behind dark glasses. His dog Pebble evidently doesn’t do photographs. Perhaps he’ll be more interested in this, (if he’s allowed to stay!). In the sun, the air is actually quite warm and Tubbs may not need his natty black tights after all. No matter that those on the wrong side of the pitch can’t see anything in the glare.

Early exchanges are tentative and inconsequential. We’re not passing or moving with much conviction, but nor are they. Before long however, LX settle down and begin to play more assertively. Persistence from Pami Bolina, Zahid Arain and Austyn Leaverland wins short corners. Keith Hunt puts out the first perfectly and Zahid buries it half way up the net, but of course it doesn’t stand. Two more pacy injections come to nothing, so Keith tries something else, a slow long hop. Zahid controls the bounce expertly and lays the ball off to Brian Tubb on his right who makes a yard or two before putting it back on the penalty spot. Reliable as ever, Pami does the rest. Shortly after Keith himself goes close with one of his trademark far post deflections.

We continue well into the first half in the same vein, but then the wheel changes. Rocket science is not needed to work out that the septuagenarian LX defence may be vulnerable if caught upfield, and Havant exploit outflanking movements and rapid breaks through the middle. Dangerous crosses home in from both wings and Colin Kimber is called into urgent action to rescue several precarious situations. Can’t go on like this. Eventually another thundering cross from Barry Bradley on their right finds a big hole in the central cover before being adroitly converted by Alec Heygate coming in from the left.

More anxiety follows. Havant fasten onto another cross close to our goal and we escape only via an heroic save by Colin, who sweeps the ball away with his stick as the forward tries to go round him, in the process receiving a fierce blow in the face from the resulting air shot. Thank goodness his visor does its stuff and Colin, pretty shaken at first, soon recovers.

Fortunately, the storm blows over and Havant in turn are obliged to play more conservatively as LX pull themselves together with more solidity at the back, a better grip in midfield, and combinations leading to penetrative final balls, notably from Zahid to Pami. With five minutes or so left, one of these is picked up deep in the circle on the right and Pami’s deft, two touch, drop to his left finds John Davey for a neatly worked goal. Well done John. Right place at the right time and just reward for hard work in the channels at centre forward.

The interval sees earnest discussion on tactics. Sensibly, it is agreed that Zahid should adopt more of a holding role at inside right, to provide support for Sudesh at centre half who is struggling a little with a damaged hamstring. John Davey, having done his bit to good effect for us, puts a new shirt and joins his home club, allowing Peter Ross to return to the fold at left wing, with Pami moving to centre forward and Austyn to inside left.

When play recommences, LX look a little better balanced and enjoy some pleasant passages of assured possession. No more goals, but we seem to be comfortably in charge for the time being. Then a rather curious episode, perhaps occasioned by a blinding sun sinking into the sky line. For a few minutes, the game is strewn with unforced errors and we all look like novices. As fate would have it, this works to our great good fortune. A speculative crash ball cannons in off a hapless Havant defender. The dreaded own goal has surely become a lurking nemesis under the new rule.

Havant, outraged by such malevolence, react most vigorously. Captain Bruce Christie abandons his role as the glue in their central defence and is soon roaming about everywhere, combining well with others of similar mobility and skill. Going into the last quarter, we are shipping water again, but this time it’s all hands to the pumps as LX mount a gritty rearguard action with John Longden, David Read, Sudesh and, of course, Colin outstanding at the core of resistance. Against a compressed defence with no open space, Havant pile on the pressure. Goalmouth scrambles, a string of short corners snuffed out, a big let off thanks to a rush of blood and we emerge 3-1 winners. 

A bit streaky perhaps. Havant are due a win one day, but not this time. Happy chatter in the dugout. Someone’s dropped an expensive gumshield. Can’t be mine; too many teeth. John Longden grins broadly and is grateful. We collect our street clothes from the cars and prepare to face the rigours of the college changing room. To those of a certain mindset, this presents an engaging aura suggestive of decaying early post war, although the building is probably nowhere near that old. For once, the lavatory cistern works without too much prompting, but the showers are in a mood again. Tubby disappears round the back and fiddles with something in the boiler room. No good. Water flow is stubbornly almost non existent and freezing cold. Brian gives up in disgust and starts to get changed without washing, but relents under threat of ostracism at the tea table. Then, hey presto, a moment of Indian magic, lovely warm water in abundance and we all smell of roses.

Down the road we go, round the corner, park by the DIY superstore and walk through the tunnel to Havant’s cricket pavilion with its delightfully hospitable bar room atmosphere. The ladies have returned and join in laughing conversation amongst the players and supporters. A jug of beer is doing the rounds. On the box, Liverpool are leading West Ham 1-0 and then go 1-2 behind. Never mind, delicious chicken fricassee, mince pies and brandy butter for tea. Peter Ross thanks June Christie for the sumptuous repast, her husband Bruce for arranging the game and Havant Cavaliers collectively for an enjoyable and entertaining encounter, not forgetting of course, the umpires, Ken Veness, (Chichester) and Howard Pollard (Havant) for their genial control over proceedings. All too soon it’s time for the long journey home after another memorable visit to a favourite venue, hoping there’ll be time for one or two more before the old firm begins to fall off the far end. 

                 LX Squad:-  Colin Kimber (GK), David G Read, John Longden, Brian Tubb, Sudesh Nayar, Adrian Money, Keith Hunt, Zahid Arain, John Davey, Parmjit Bolina, Austyn Leaverland, Peter Ross (Captain)

Match report by Adrian Money. Photo by Anthea Ross on David Read’s camera.