Match Report 2001/2002

Linnets lose hope in the dark

Tuesday 5th March 2002 : Jewson Wessex League

Lymington & New Milton 1, Fareham Town 2

Lymington & New Milton player-manager Graham Kemp all but threw in the towel on his side's chances of claiming the Wessex League title as they slumped to a 2-1 home defeat by Fareham under the floodlights at Fawcett's Field. "Realistically I think that our chance has gone," said Kemp. "There's a lot of teams around us at the top and I think that was probably one defeat too many, so we'll be challenging for second or third now."

Facing a Fareham team that has been blowing hot and cold throughout the season but which could boast one of the best away records in the league (including a recent away win at champions Andover), the Linnets were a shadow of the side that had put four goals past their opponents without reply in the reverse of this fixture. Following on from the disappointment of the previous Saturday's home League Cup defeat by Andover, this result completed a miserable few days for the club.

The Andover game had been notable for a number of significant absences from the team but a number of changes were made that restored considerable experience to the Linnets' line-up for this match. Back came Paul Gazzard and 'veteran' Jimmy Sheppard - absent in the previous match - while recent returnee to the fold, Nigel Mottashed, lined up against one of his former teams to make his first full start for the club since coming back from Totton. Missing from the starting eleven were Steve Strong (injured in the Andover game) and Darren Mooney, while Brett Phillips dropped down to the substitutes' bench. Ross Drew was moved from wing-back to a midfield ball-winning role. Most notable, however, were the continuing absences of strikers Leigh Phillips (still under suspension) and Richie Glenister (named amongst the substitutes but still carrying an injury).

Those of a superstitious nature might have thought that the omens were not good from the beginning because the match was scheduled to kick-off at 7:30 pm but at 7:40 there was no sign of either side on the pitch. A quick enquiry revealed that a number of Fareham players had arrived late because of delays en route and the start was delayed until 7:45 accordingly. Back at the start of the season the Linnets had encountered another such delay when their FA Cup match against Burgess Hill was delayed because the Sussex side had been caught up in Bank Holiday traffic on the way through the New Forest.

On that previous occasion, the delay seemed to benefit the visiting side because they "hit the ground running" with a quick-fire salvo of goals that effectively ended the match before the first half-hour had elapsed. Although Fareham could not be said to be of quite the same quality they nevertheless caught the home side napping with two goals in the first fifteen minutes. Both strikes came from lightning breaks down the wings which caught the the home defence trying to hold a line that was too far in advance of their own goal. With the defence having been beaten, or rather outflanked, it was a relatively simple matter for Pook, then Hamodu, to convert the two chances they created despite desperate attempts by the home defence to cover.

Briefly, as they had in the Andover game, the home defenders retreated to prevent any further humiliation but this had the effect of creating too big a gap between defence and attack particularly as the visitors, already two goals to the good, could afford to drop off and pack the midfield area. To overcome this it was necessary for the home side to push their wing-backs forward and for their central defenders to take turns to advance and thus bolster the hard-pressed midfield. So it was that Paul Morris advanced out of defence with the ball, deep into the visitors half, before releasing a pass to Steve Tate whose effort was just wide of goal. Nigel Mottashed also tried to find the right time to move forward and in a passage of play down the Linnets' left flank involving Green and Smith the ball eventually ran to Tate who held it up just long enough for Mottashed to make his way in to the middle and although the cross was only waist-high, Mottashed produced an improvised kneeling header that nearly found its way past the 'keeper.

Almost immediately, the tall defender was involved again in attack. Pressure from Smith and Gazzard produced a corner on the right which was played short. Smith took possession and played the ball deep into the Fareham penalty area where it found Mottashed at the back of the waiting pack. His powerful header looked goalbound but Steve Tate intervened and his hooked volley completely wrong-footed the visiting 'keeper to reduce the deficit. Playing now with a bit more conviction, L&NM pressed for an equaliser but their enthusiasm to score left them vulnerable to the kind of quick-fire attack that had produced the visitors' earlier goals. One such attack just before half-time saw Hamodu again put clear but his effort went narrowly wide when he seemed to have the goal at his mercy.

Half-Time : L.&N.M. 1, Fareham 2

The second half saw Lymington & New Milton in much greater control than previously and they gradually started to put the visitors under some sustained pressure, although the threat down the flanks still remained. Nevertheless, Green and Gazzard pushed forward at every opportunity although it was Paul Morris who was instrumental in producing their first real effort of the half when he again brought the ball out of defence before finding Gazzard who played the ball wide to Tate. Although under considerable pressure, the Linnets' striker did well to hold the ball up and play it back into the path of the oncoming Gazzard whose shot on the run was on target but was somehow beaten out by some last-ditch defending.

It was now almost one way traffic as the home side stepped up their efforts for an equaliser. A cross from the left by Liam Green found Tate whose shot was well held by the Fareham 'keeper. L&NM then brought on Gareth Keeping in place of Matt Town, who was clearly still struggling to find form after his recent long injury lay-off. Keeping was soon in action as Drew played the ball through to him and his shot was again beaten out by a combination of 'keeper and defenders. The home side then produced what was probably the slickest move of the night when a series of rapid interchanges between Green, Smith and Drew saw them make rapid progress down the left and just when it looked as though the attack might fizzle out, Smith retrieved the ball on the Fareham goal-line and played it into the path of Green, running in on a diagonal path towards the goal, but his crisp shot was well-saved by the 'keeper.

Still the Linnets could not afford to ignore the threat of counter-attacks and it was in trying to prevent several of these down their right flank that Sheppard and Gazzard incurred the referee's displeasure, both ending up in his book after entanglements with Fareham's Franklin who was perhaps lucky himself not to be cautioned for some rather hot-headed gesticulations and attempted retaliatory tackles. Increasingly frustrated by some well-organised defending, L&NM brought on Brett Phillips in place of Ross Drew, perhaps in attempt to introduce a bit of guile and experience to their midfield and he produced a number of passes to Green on the left flank to give his side some momentum. From one of these, Green played an excellent cross into the Fareham box which induced absolute chaos as the the visitors tried to protect their lead but the ball was eventually cleared to safety.

With time fast running out, the home side pressed harder and harder with Morris, Mottashed and even Graham Kemp himself finding their way forward. One such foray by Mottashed saw him free on the left of the penalty area and his driven cross found Tate, whose shot was forced wide by a combination of a defender's boot and the 'keeper's outstretched hand. The closing minutes saw chances for both teams. Fareham threatened to settle the affair with another lightning break that Kearn did well to save, while Keeping looked almost certain to score when played in only yards from goal but the ball was whipped of his toes as he was winding up to strike. At the death L&NM were perhaps unfortunate when, having forced an injury-time corner on the left, the ball found its way to Paul Morris who executed a neat overhead shot that flew just wide.

In the end, credit had to go to Fareham who had done what the BBC's rugby commentator Bill McLaren always used to refer to as "the needful". Despite a lot of huff and puff from the home side, they did not look to have the cutting edge required and clearly missed the goal-scoring threat and physical presence of Leigh Phillips and Glenister. Perhaps the changes in personnel had an effect, although Mottashed looks to have retained the composure and skill of old and generally stood out amongst some rather anonymous performances from his colleagues. It is to be hoped that with Phillips shortly due to return, that cutting-edge will soon be restored.

Lymington & New Milton : Kearn, Gazzard, Green, Kemp, Morris, Mottashed, Sheppard, Smith, Tate, Town [Keeping 60], Drew [Phillips 70]. Unused sub: Glenister.

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