Larks battle back for a replay
Larks take FA Cup tie to the wire
(Match report by Henry Burridge: @HJBurridge; photo of Joe Raynes by kind permission of Paul Paxford)
Ten-man Larkhall Athletic battled back to earn a midweek FA Cup visit to Havant & Waterlooville with a draw at Plain Ham. The visitors went ahead after only five minutes when former Yeovil Town hitman James Hayter headed home. When Brad Norris was sent off on 58 minutes, Larks were left with a mountain to climb, but Joe Raynes’ fine individual goal levelled the scores just two minutes later as the Larks earned a second qualifying round replay at National League South opposition for the second season running.
Matt Thorne lifted a delightful pass over the Havant defence to set Norris in behind after three minutes, but his acute effort was turned behind. Norris also had the next shot for the hosts, volleying into the side netting from 30 yards after a poor clearance. But from their first attack of the game, Havant went ahead. Ben Swallow burst down the right flank and found Hayter running across the defence to head in at the near post.
Another Swallow delivery, this time from a corner, then saw Dan Strugnell power a header off the crossbar. Brian Stock also shot high and wide as the visitors recycled possession well, although Thorne did volley wide of the left-hand post. Larks’ keeper Kyle Phillips’ fingertips had to turn a stinging Hayter volley onto the bar from the edge of the box.
Jamie Lyons found himself in the book 20 minutes in as he and Stock came together in a strong challenge. It was Lyons’ long throw that resulted in the next Larks opportunity, although Ollie Price’s flicked header found keeper Ryan Young. An overlapping run from right-back Strugnell then resulted in Scott Donnelly dragging a shot across goal.
The first period ended with tempers raised and Havant protesting to the referee. Dean Griffiths, who earlier required attention from the physio, went down off the ball. The referee halted play with Stock in possession, but not in time for Norris to pull out of a challenge and get a booking.
Larkhall again came out strongly to open the second period and had an early Raynes shot blocked. Lyons and Norris also found themselves with dangerous crossing opportunities, but could not find a blue shirt with their centres. But Havant came back and forced Phillips into a one-handed stop when Donnelly aimed for the bottom corner.
This time, however, Larkhall would not let the visitors take control. A deep free-kick was poorly cleared by Havant, allowing Lyons to cut inside a defender and drill a shot into the side netting. On 58 minutes the Larks forced a corner, which Young whiffed at under pressure from a batch of converging players. The referee blew for a foul against Larkhall and proceeded to show Norris a second yellow card as a result.
And yet the ten men found an equaliser on the hour-mark. Raynes latched onto a long pass over the Havant defence, wriggled away from three defenders and slipped the ball past Young. Swallow continued to bother the Larks’ defence, as playing from the left-hand side, he found Lanre Azeez to head narrowly past an upright. Donnelly then blazed a free-kick into the trees behind Phillips' goal.
The pace of Azeez almost told on a 70th-minute counter. He blazed away down the right and into the box to cross for Patterson, but his header was cleared off the line by a flying Stuart Tovey.
Little over a minute later the Hawks wideman burst forward and pulled back for Patterson. But with the goal at his mercy eight yards out, Patterson's tame effort was somehow turned away by a desperate dive from Phillips. Now living on the edge, Larks survived another gilt-edged chance when Hayter lifted a first-time shot over the bar from seven yards.
For the final ten minutes Larkhall sat back for most of the time, soaking up the pressure from the visitors, who wasted chances when Danny Blanchett bent an effort around the post and Marvin Morgan shot too high. Stock drove into the midriff of Phillips from the edge of the penalty area and pulled another long-range shot wide as Larkhall kept them out.
(We were also visited by Andy Ormerod from Hampshire, whose report on the game is here.)