the real fa cup

W&F 0-2 H&W

Wingate & Finchley 0-2 Havant & Waterlooville
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round 2014/15

The best, the funniest and the most decisive incident in this game happened after just three minutes. It killed the game like it is going to kill this match report.

In the meantime, on the eve of the game we discovered that Havant & Waterlooville’s Brian Stock was suspended so would not feature, disappointing as it’s always nice to see a player you have previoiusly admired. The ex-international quotient, then, was reduced even further, from a potential four to a likely two.

So, here we go. The Ryman Premier side at home to the 2nd placed Conference South club. A long ball was arrowed through the centre of Wingate & Finchley’s defence. It went over the centre backs and the keeper came out to claim it. The next two or three seconds happened in slow motion.

When faced with a ball over the top a goalkeeper aims to come out to meet the ball by judging its’ speed and direction, anticipating where it will enter the penalty area, and getting himself into a position to intercept the ball with his hands.  This is not a complex calculation and involves little risk beyond bobly pitch which, even at this level, is very unusual.

At this point, as a goalkeeper myself, I should go through the decision-making process in such situations to illustrate how complex that process is – in order to support my bredren goalkeeper and mitigate what happened next.

But the decision making process in such situations is not complex, it is easy, it is as explained above. Well, that is the case as long as there isn’t an on-rushing forward involved. When an on-rushing forward is involved there is danger, their mere presence can make a keeper realise he needs to get to the ball a little quicker. This additional pace or distance might take the ‘keeper beyond the white line where he can use his hands. This scenario is bad.

Once out of the safety rectangle the penalty area, the goalkeeper is at the mercy of his footballing ability. This is not always a bad thing, keepers are these days very happy playing out of defence or hoofing into row Z as the situation requires. The problems start when the ball is on the cusp, the demilitarised zone one metre either side of the edge of the area. When entering that area at speed the keeper has to make a split-second decision on whether to use his hands, feet, head or anything else.

Wingate & Finchley’s Bobby Smith got himself into a perfect position where he was going to catch the through ball but realised quickly that the bounce was not going to be kind and the point at which he was to intercept the ball was now in the demilitarised zone. Smith knew he could not risk using his hands so, with admirable quick thinking, he adjusted his body shape and launched his head towards the ball. He had judged the flight perfectly to catch the ball and the ball flew right past where his hands would have been. Unfortunately that was about a foot above the head with which he was now attempting to connect with the ball.

Bubb’s momentum took him past the stranded keeper and he almost apologetically tapped it in, 1-0. My subscription to the goalkeeper’s union meant I should shake my head to indicate misfortune and explain to anyone nearby what a tricky position the keeper had been in. On the other hand, I’d spent the early afternoon in Mother Kelly’s and, with the benefit of alcohol, it really was very funny. I opted for uncontrollable laughing, sorry Bobby.

It was fairly swiflty apparent that that was the game over as a contest. Despite much huff and puff, some good possession in some good positions, WinFinch never seriously looked like equalising. I’m not sure I even recall a shot on target, certainly not one that overly troubled Havant’s keeper. Havant looked within themselves and in time added a second, another breakaway but with no keeper fault.

Before that second goal, W&F dinked, blasted and headed half chances over the bar or wide of the goal. The only other major talking point during this game was the referee. He was pretty good but what was notable was that he got hit by the ball not once but twice, the first of which was a rather painful looking clatter to his plums.

The Wingate fans asked Hawks manager Lee Bradbury if he got his suit from Matalan and took the piss out of the Hawks’ big coach parked outside. There was a pleasing nutmeg and the Havant keeper seemed to constantly be verbalising his internal conversations, the best when he hoofed the ball towards the centre circle and loudly berated himself for being ‘TOO STRAIGHT”. Arrrgghhhh TURMOIL. ANGST. Quite the opposite of Bobby Smith’s quiet introspection.

Havant in the hat, Wingate rueing a split second of misfortune.

 

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