Oh what a night! It wasn’t late December in 63, but late January in 23 but who cares……a terrific display from the Peacocks well and truly terminated the visitors’ impressive unbeaten record on the road in the National League South this season. After Town’s dismal performance in their weekend contest with St Albans, the 90 minutes under the lights at the Cygnet Health Care Stadium were on the opposite end of the scale as the hosts posted the perfect response. Make no mistake, this was no fluke result as the Peacocks dominated the Hawks for large periods of the game and finally got the goals their endeavours deserved during an eventful second half in which Havant had two players dismissed.
The Peacocks made two changes from the side that had surrendered their long unbeaten home record three days previously, Ross Stearn starting in place of Lloyd James while Dave Sims-Burgess took over from the unwell Nat Jarvis up front. It is fair to say pre-match optimism amongst home fans was hardly overflowing following three consecutive defeats and taking on one of the League’s promotion favourites who arrived having won 8 of their 11 games on their travels. Those fears were blown out of the water during the 90 minutes that followed. From the whistle the home side were on the front foot against the full-timers, taking the game by the scruff of the neck with a refreshing vitality. Nick McCootie had the first sniff of goal at the Travis Perkins End, getting clear on the right and seemingly being pulled down by the last defender as he entered the area. Nothing doing from the referee.
Two successive corners soon followed for the hosts who then saw a great cross from McCootie fail to find a teammate and when the ball was cleared Lee Lucas collected to have his strike blocked. In response Jake McCarthy drilled a shot over the top and Sam Matthews diverted a James Roberts cross comfortably wide but excursions from the Hawks were limited as they had plenty to do coping with a reinvigorated Town team. Stearn fired a 20 yard effort narrowly past the post as the home side continued to engineer good positions, with Havant keeper Teddy Sharman-Lowe then coming to his side’s rescue after Nick Grimes had won possession to see his forward pass deflect into the path of Stearn. The Hawks’ custodian did well to get down low to tip the effort wide for another corner before holding a Grimes header as Town maintained the pressure.
McCootie menaced again moving in from the right before he was stopped by a cynical challenge from Tyrell Miller-Rodney, earning the Havant player a yellow while Zac Smith beat his man but saw his strike blocked. Any attacks from the Hawks were more lame duck than bird of prey, Muhammadu Faal slicing a snapshot well wide from a Roberts ball as Town defended solidly without concern although their plans were disrupted shortly before the break when the dynamic Ollie Chamberlain had to retire with a sore hamstring and was replaced by Joe Budd. The substitute soon made an impact, drifting a lovely ball in from the right which Smith had time to do more with as he came in from the left but opted for the spectacular and volleyed high over the top. Roberts blasted a shot feet over the bar to end the half with the momentum very much with the Peacocks and a big second half ahead.
As maybe expected, the visitors came out with renewed intent after an unimpressive first 45. Former Oxford United forward Roberts made ground across the edge of the box before testing Jack Bycroft with a shot which was safely pouched, a rare moment of exertion for the Town keeper during the evening. Faal then cut inside to drive wide of the target before the Hawks were reduced to ten men seven minutes in when Joash Nembhard’s dreadful challenge on Sims-Burgess in the middle of the park produced a straight red.
The game quietened for a period in the aftermath before Town raised the heat in the final quarter. However it seemed as though it might be one of those nights when a Lucas cross went behind McCootie and when Smith returned the ball back in Stearn swung at it but missed 😫. Nothing of the sort. After Joe Guest had been pushed down 25 or so yards out, Stearn took the honours with the free kick and his low strike was pushed round the post by Sharman-Lowe. From Lucas’ corner the ball fell loose to Budd whose driven return into the six yard box was deflected into the net by the Hawks’ Jake McCarthy after 73 minutes for the opener.
Two more corners followed for the Peacocks who now had their tails up, the second corner being recycled by Jay Foulston for Stearn to meet with a free header which he planted wide of goal. Dylan Morgan replaced McCootie with 12 minutes remaining, but Town still weren’t finished. The hardworking Sims-Burgess who scooped the Man of the Match award found Budd in space, but his shot travelled high over the bar before the final switch took place with seven minutes to go, James swapping with Stearn. Havant’s cause was lost after referee Wootton brandished his second straight red of the evening five minutes from time to send sub Danny Wright packing after he needlessly clattered into Dan Ball from behind as the Town defender shepherded the ball out of play.
The Peacocks then punished the visitors further with their second goal on 87 minutes. A patient build-up on the left ended with James finding Smith in the area and he feigned to shoot, giving him that bit of space to curl a peach beyond Sharman-Lowe into the far corner. Head of Football Rob Dray joined in the celebrations and became the third recipient of a red card, presumably for pitch encroachment. Definitely the harshest of the trio.
Four minutes of stoppage time were easily negotiated to confirm victory and arguably the Peacocks’ finest performance to date in the National League. The win does not lift them any further up the table, but it does provide that injection of belief with a whole host of other difficult games lying in wait continuing at Eastbourne on Saturday. The only disappointment of the night was the 551 crowd, well down on the average and boosted by a respectable number of travelling H&W fans. Hopefully the club will be able to rely on greater support for the last three months of the campaign as they seek to cement their residency in the National League.
Taunton: Jack Bycroft, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Dan Ball, Ollie Chamberlain (Joe Budd 43), Nick McCootie (Dylan Morgan 78), Joe Guest, Ross Stearn (Lloyd James 83), Zac Smith, Dave Sims-Burgess, Lee Lucas. Unused sub: Lloyd Irish
Havant & Waterlooville: Teddy Sharman-Lowe, Joe Newton, Joe Oastler (captain), Joash Nembhard, Jake McCarthy, Paul Rooney (Tyrell Miller-Rodney 19), Jason Prior, James Roberts (Danny Wright 74), Muhammadu Faal, Sam Matthews (Ethan Burnett 54), Ben Shroll. Unused subs: Jamie Collins, Charlie Ruff
Referee: Dale Wootton (Bishops Cleeve)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Steven Swan (Truro)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Ollie Taylor (Paulton)
” We were absolutely fantastic, magnificent………” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Match photos from Club Photographers Debbie Gould can be viewed HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM
Dave Sims-Burgess receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Rob Holden of Match Sponsor Showtime Attractions