Saturday, 26 January 2008
Havants frighten the haves
Congratulations to Blue Square South non-leaguers Havant and Waterlooville, who gave a superb account of themselves at Anfield in the FA Cup this afternoon, scoring twice (a goal from Potter deflected off Martin Skrtel and a close range header by Richard Pacquette) against the mighty Liverpool, before going down 5-2 to a Benayoun hat-trick and a blatantly offside Peter Crouch effort at the end. Back in the 1960s and '70s, when my footballing passions were ignited, the gulf between professional and part-time or amateur teams was such that you expected massively unequal contests. These days, the improvements in technique, tactics, fitness and training all round mean that while there is still a huge chasm between Premier League and non-league, there is also surprising quality in the lower echelons of the game - often of a kind which takes mega-wage stars reel. Given that sheer determination can often compensate for lack of finesse (if not the magic conjoured up by sheer class), the key differences are usually in overall stamina, the number of mistakes made, and a certain positional or organisational naivete on the part of the minnows. However, Havant undoubtedly played out of their skins today, taking the lead twice, grabbing a significant chunk of the first-half action, and showing that they more than deserved to breathe the Kop air alongside many of their heroes. This is indeed "what the FA Cup is all about."