by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Poole Town slipped back into the National League South relegation zone, after Havant and Waterlooville ran out 3-1 winners at the Black Gold stadium.
The Dolphins had been reduced to ten men after twenty minutes, when goalkeeper Nick Hutchings was shown red for bundling over Alfie Hutchinson just outside the penalty area. And the error was punished, when Rory Williams fired home a clever free-kick to hand the Hawks the lead.
The Dorset strugglers fought back through Warren Bentley’s penalty at the end of the first half, but Havant scored twice through Theo Lewis and Wes Fogden in the final ten minutes to secure all three points and push Poole back into the drop zone.
Tom Killick made one change to his side with full-back Jake Smeeton returning after a lengthy injury lay-off, and Uyi Aihevba dropping to the bench.
Havant boss Lee Bradbury, a former AFC Bournemouth player, made two changes for the trip to the south coast with Matt Tubbs and Jordan Rose both missing out. Alfie Rutherford and Andreas Robinson came into the starting line-up.
After a scrappy start to the game, the visitors posed a threat with Rutherford’s runs behind the Dolphins’ backline. And in the 19th minute, the Hawks forward was played through over the top once again. Poole goalkeeper Hutchings rushed out to clear, and bundled over Rutherford after failing to collect the lofted delivery.
Referee Ian Fissenden showed the shot stopper a straight red, with winger Jez Bedford sacrificed for substitute keeper Tom Rees.
And the visitors took the lead from the resulting free-kick, when Williams drilled a low effort under the Dolphins’ wall and into the far corner, leaving Rees rooted to the spot.
But despite Havant’s man advantage, Poole fought bravely for an equaliser. Mo Baghdadi swung in a corner in the 26th minute, and Richard Gillespie slid a shot just wide of the front post.
The Hawks posed a threat on the break, and could have doubled their lead minutes later. Corby Moore’s delivery into the visitors’ penalty area was hacked clear, and Havant broke away with numbers. Jason Prior received the ball inside the box and flicked cleverly over the Dolphins’ centre halves, before slipping and rolling narrowly wide.
Rutherford was then cautioned for diving, and an altercation between the Hawks forward and Jamie Whisken saw the skipper also go into the book.
And moments later, Poole were awarded a penalty. Robinson bundled over Bentley inside the visitors’ penalty area, and the Poole frontman fired home emphatically past Ryan Young for the equaliser.
Prior spurned over one final opportunity before the interval, and the Dolphins deservedly entered the break level.
But the Hawks controlled proceedings in the early stages of the second period and should have retaken the lead several times.
Fogden sent a header narrowly wide of the far post in the 48th minute, before Prior saw another effort cleared off the line after Poole struggled to clear a delivery into the penalty area.
Will Spetch and Edward Harris were both shown yellow cards soon after, following an unsightly clash in the middle of the park as tempers flared. From the free-kick, Williams bent towards the top right corner but was denied spectacularly by Rees at full stretch.
The Dolphins’ substitute goalkeeper was tested again on the hour mark, when he tipped another Williams strike wide after the full back was teed up by Bradley Tarbuck.
In the 63rd minute, the Hawks won a dangerous free-kick to the left of the box after Prior was bundled to the ground. Brian Stock delivered towards the penalty spot, and Poole cleared only as far as Williams who blazed over and out of the stadium.
The pressure from Havant continued into the latter stages of the half. Fogden was played through on goal and stabbed a shot under Rees, but could only find the side netting from a tight angle.
Poole carved out an opportunity of their own ten minutes from time when Marvin Brooks rifled over the crossbar, after the referee turned down two penalty appeals from Dolphins players in the build-up.
But the Hawks finally found their breakthrough late on. Williams delivered towards the far upright, and Poole cleared as far as Lewis who drilled home from 15 yards.
A mix-up between Rees and his centre-halves then allowed Hayter to pick up possession in front of goal, but the forward could only fire narrowly wide after being presented with an empty target.
Poole then squandered a guilt-edged opportunity to equalise. Balmer picked up the ball on the penalty spot, but drove a shot narrowly wide of the far post with Young beaten.
And on the cusp of full-time, Havant made the most of Balmer’s miss and tucked away their third.
Whisken failed to deal with a ball sent forward deep into Poole’s half and Tarbuck opted to cross towards the back post rather than head for the corner. Fogden was on hand to tap home into an empty net, and wrap up the three points for the visitors.
Substitute James Hayter could have added a fourth, but side-footed over the bar after twisting past Whisken.
The defeat sees Poole’s three match unbeaten streak come to an end, and the Dolphins have now slipped back into the relegation zone ahead of an away trip to East Thurrock United on Tuesday.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Rory Williams (Havant and Waterlooville)
Poole Town: Hutchings, Alawode-Williams, Smeeton, Spetch, Whisken, Moore, Baghdadi, Bedford (Rees), Bentley (Balmer), Brooks, Gillespie (Pettefer)
Subs not used: Devlin, Aihevba
Havant and Waterlooville: Young, Williams, Stock, Woodford, Harris (Hayter), Fogden, Lewis (Carter), Prior, Tarbuck, Rutherford, Robinson
Subs not used: Strugnell, Tuttle, Huggins
Referee: Ian Fissenden