About Match

The sun was shining down on a somewhat subdued Westleigh Park. With the Hawks’ relegation from the Vanarama National League South confirmed in mid-week, the players only had pride to play for. The incentive of giving the Hawks fans something to smile about would have also appealing to the players. Braintree Town were the opposition on the day, decked out in their eye-catching orange and white kit. 


The Irons kicked off and got going from the blow of the referee’s whistle. The Hawks weren’t prepared for the quick start and had their backs up against the wall for the opening 5 minutes, being pressed relentlessly by an inform Braintree attack.  

After a few minutes, the Hawks had woken up and were looking to get the ball out of their half for the first time. Callum Kealy managed to do this, tying the Irons defence in a knot with a bit of brilliant interplay with Ryan Seager. Kealy spotted Roberts on his own on the wing, so played the ball across the pitch to him. Robbo tried to take a shot from an awkward angle, which flew well over the bar. 

Irons keeper Jack Sims took the subsequent goal kick, but Seager intercepted his pass and found himself in one-on-one with Sims. However, Seager hadn’t brought the ball under control so it was difficult to get a shot off. The Hawks number 9 tried his best and managed a tame shot, which went straight into the hands of the keeper. A big let-off for the visitors. 

The Hawks grew more into the game after this and weren’t letting the visitors in behind so easily. Play was heavily focused in the midfield, and neither team had the chance to have two touches on the ball. This resulted in both sides taking the approach of trying to get the attackers in behind the defence and playing the ball over the back line to them. 

This tactic worked well for Braintree, playing Alfie Payne in behind. However, before he could run at goal Brendan Wilson pulled the attacker to the floor, resulting in a Braintree free kick just outside the Hawks box. Payne stood over the ball for the set piece and unleashed a clean strike on target that Ross Worner had to get a strong hand on to deflect over the crossbar. 

It seems that Braintree did not learn from the Hawks’ mistake. McCarthy found himself in behind Irons’ backline thanks to a great ball from Jack Jebb and was brought down by captain Leon Davies the same way that Brendan Wilson brought down his man. Jebb stood over the subsequent set piece and sent the ball into the opposition box to the feet of Nathan Carlyle, who couldn’t keep his shot down, sending it flying over the stand. 

Carlyle’s miss brought on a good spell for the Hawks. 17-year-old Preston Woolston was given a chance to shine in this period, constantly winning the ball back, playing smart passes and showing up players much his senior. 

One of Preston’s smart passes found its way to Kealy on the left-hand side, who timed the run to perfection and found himself in the opposition box with the ball at his feet. The Aussies’ shot from wide caused the Braintree fans behind the goal some audible worry, but it was held well by Sims. 

The Hawks’ spell of good chances came immediately after this. Braintree had changed up their shape and started to pass the ball around the Hawks midfield.

Wakefield was being given more space on the wing to create chances. He crossed the ball into the Hawks box and found Blackwell. The Braintree man skilfully dribbled past Willson and tried to dink the ball over Worner, but he couldn’t get enough on his shot and sent it out for a goal kick. Braintree continued to press and almost found an opener a few minutes later through Coulthirst, but he sent his effort from outside the box along the floor and narrowly wide.

The Hawks were struggling under the pressure and resorted to fouling the opposition to deal with the press. Woolston put in a rough challenge on Blackwell, which the referee took the young prospect aside for and showed him a yellow card, despite the strong protests of the Hawks fans. 

The referee added one minute of extra time. The Hawks stepped their play up a gear, trying to get at least a chance before the end of the half. This chance presented itself when Woolston was fouled deep in the opposition half, winning a free kick. Jebb stood over the set piece and sent it into the box. The ball found its way to Wilson unmarked on the far post. The Hawks defender was in a great position to get the opener, however his powerful header unfortunately smashed off the post. The referee blew his whistle before Sims could take the subsequent goal kick. 


Half time: Havant and Waterlooville 0-0 Braintree Town 


Both sides came out unchanged and Braintree took no time to get going. Blair ran down the left and cut inside, curling a shot towards the far post that went narrowly wide. 

The Hawks came out for halftime looking sluggish, a stark contrast to the lively Braintree players. In the 50th minute, Coulthirst broke through the Hawks’ defence and darted towards goal. Worner came off his line to take the ball off the Irons man, but instead whipped him out. Despite calls from the Hawks dugout that Coulthirst was offside, the referee awarded Braintree a penalty and gave Worner a yellow card. Coulthirst calmly converted, making the score 1-0 for the visitors. 

The penalty and instructions from the management team snapped the Hawks players into sharp focus. Ryan Seager came agonisingly close to equalising for the Hawks five minutes after the penalty was scored. Roberts found Kealy with a great ball from wide, Kealy then found Seager 5 yards off the goal line unmarked. The Hawks #9 struck the ball on the volley, but it ricocheted off the crossbar and out of play. 

The game had stepped up a gear now. Woolston carried his fine performance over into the second half. The young prospect picked up the ball deep in the Hawks half and made a run towards the opposition box, beating three players along the way. Woolston passed the ball on the floor of the box to Seager, who couldn’t find the net. 

The Hawks did not let up after this chance. Roberts picked up the ball on the left-hand side and looked to cross into the box, but his attempt was deflected out for a corner. In the 65th minute, Jebb delivered the corner to McCarthy on the far post, who volleyed the ball into the net from very close range. Strange goal but the Hawks were level!

The equalizer spurred on the Hawks players and gave them hope of finding a winner. Devante Stanley received the ball deep in the opposition half and looked to cross into the box, where loads of Hawks players were eagerly waiting for a chance to score. His cross-field pass found Roberts on the far post, whose powerful header went straight at Sims. McCarthy came close again from a corner minutes later, rising like a salmon but heading wide.

Like many teams that had come to Westleigh Park this season, Braintree was struggling to deal with the Hawks press. However, like always, the Hawks ambitious tactics left them vulnerable in the back. Coulthirst pickpocketed Wilson on the halfway line and drove towards goal. He let rip a powerful shot for the left-hand side, that smashed off the post and out for a goal kick. 

The Braintree attacker didn’t have to wait long to make up for the missed chance. In the 77th minute substitute and ex-West Ham star Freddie Sears played a great pass over the Hawks’ back line to Coulthirst, who found himself one-on-one with Worner. The Braintree #10 lined up his shot and calmly slotted the ball into the net, regaining Braintree’s lead. 

Braintree regaining the lead took the sting out of the game and left the Hawks players looking dejected. Despite Kwaku Donkor and Jonas Mukuna coming on to try and inject some pace into the game, the play was slow. The Hawks weren’t being presented with the same opportunities that they had been earlier in the half.  

Hats off to the Braintree defence, who had stuck to their plan and restricted the Hawks of any real chances in the last spell of the game. 

Seager and Wilson both had chances from corners to find a late equaliser for the Hawks, but both of their tame efforts went straight into the palms of Sims. 

Kai Innocent had a late opportunity to find an equaliser in the 94th minute, volleying the ball from 6 yards, but sending it flying over the post over the stands. 

The referee blew his whistle before Sims could take the resulting goal kick, making the final score 2-1 to the visitors. On a positive note, Preston Woolston was awarded Wightlink Player of the Match, giving the Hawks a glimpse of promise for next season. 


Full time: Havant and Waterlooville 1-2 Braintree Town 

Attendance: 717

Written by Harry Ince 

Havant and Waterlooville XI: Worner (GK), Stanley, Innocent, McCarthy (C ), Carlyle (Mukuna 86’), Seager, Willson, Kealy (Donkor 70’), Jebb, Roberts, Woolston 

Unused subs: Walker-Harris (GK), Spence, Crook 

Goals: McCarthy 65’

Yellow cards: Woolston 39’, Worner 51’, Roberts 84’, Donkor 88’


Braintree Town XI: Sims (GK), Davies (Davis 69’), Altintop (C), Grimwood, Blackwell (Sears 69’), Payne (Lambe 58’), Blair, Coulthirst, Wakefield, Rendall, Odusanya

Unused subs: Miccio, Brothers 

Goals: Coulthirst 51’, 77’

Yellow cards: Altintop 88’, Sears 90+4