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Chelmsford City 1 Havant & Waterlooville 1
11:14am Wednesday 20th February 2013 in Local Sport
TEN-man Chelmsford City recovered quickly from going a goal down to Perry Ryan's 64th-minute penalty for Havant & Waterlooville by equalising two minutes later through Rob Edmans' leveller, and manager Glenn Pennyfather reckons the point they gathered could prove crucial at the end of the season.
Havant's spot kick had been awarded after defender Kenny Clark instinctively knocked Sahr Kabba's goalbound header off the line with his hand, an act which saw him sent off.
But Edmans soon converted from close range after a rebound following Max Cornhill's strong run and shot to earn his team a draw. Pennyfather admitted that his side weren't at their best, but he was appreciative of what they'd been able to take from the contest.
He reacted: "If you're going to be successful, these are the sorts of games you can look back on at the end of the season and say "do you remember that point we got against Havant, and how hard that was?" It would have been easy, going 1-0 down and down to ten men, to lay down.
"But they didn't, and the lads kept going on a difficult evening, called on their reserves of energy and got the equaliser. With a little bit of luck we might have nicked it."
"They're a big, strong side and they're in a good vein of form at the moment themselves. I'm delighted that we've ended up picking up a point once Kenny had been dismissed.
"Once we went 1-0 down it looked like it'd put a spring back into our step. We showed character, and that's important.
"We didn't play well by any stretch of the imagination - we know that - but it takes all sorts of performances throughout the season to be successful."
A finger injury to on-loan Arsenal goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook meant a debut for newly-signed Danzelle St Louis-Hamilton between the sticks after he completed his move from AFC Telford United.
In the heart of midfield David Rainford was included in a straight swap for namesake Bridges, while Kyle Vassell was picked ahead of Edmans.
The first quarter-hour passed the spectators by but Havant made the first impression just afterwards when a deep free kick found defender Dan Strugnell, who headed wide.
Seconds later the visitors threatened again and the hosts endured a tense ten-second spell where the ball ricocheted around their goalmouth with Kabba wriggling.
There were chances to come for the Clarets, however, and Vassell almost lit-up proceedings on 26 minutes as his vicious half-volley dipped inches over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Some attractive build-up involving Omer Riza's tidy back-flick then paved the way for Cook to shoot low and hard at goalkeeper Clark Masters seven minutes later.
In the approach to the interval the Hawks replied, Emmanuel Ighorae firing narrowly wide while Jesse Kewley-Graham went even closer as his drive along the floor inside on the right was deflected into the side netting.
At the other end, during a substantial amount of injury time, Riza and Edmans were involved in the lead-up to Cook receiving possession adjacent to the penalty spot, but his strike bounced back off the face of the post.
On the first half performance, Pennyfather reflected: "We were sloppy at times, and never really got into any tempo. There were a lot of misplaced passes by both teams and it wasn't a game for the purist.
"We huffed and puffed a little bit in the first half, but it was a hard game tonight. Havant are a decent side. I watched their game against Welling and they were unlucky not to get something from there on Saturday."
The Hampshire outfit certainly entered the second period with similar levels of intent, and Clark had to throw his body in the way of a 47th-minute shot to prevent St Louis-Hamilton having to make a save.
City's Cook also found the path of his own effort obstructed soon afterwards but, when Clark used an illegal part of his body to thwart Kabba's header mid-way through the half, Referee David Rock displayed a red card to reduce City to ten men.
Ryan took responsibility for the resulting penalty and made no mistake in stroking into the back of the net. Chelmsford then sensed the urgency of the situation, and attacked with a new air of purpose.
Ninety seconds later, Cornhill plucked a ball out of the air and powered into the box. His low shot could only be parried by Havant custodian Masters into the path of Edmans, who gleefully accepted the invitation to hammer into an open goal.
Glenn explained: "I was mindful that I didn't want to over-expose ourselves because, at ten men, you'd take the point all day long.
"On the other hand I knew if we could get a decent enough ball forward, Kyle, Robbie and Cookie could possibly nick something for us.
"They've got that in their locker, with the ability to do something out of nothing. You have that in the back of your mind, but I wanted to make sure we were right first, and that we kept what we had."
In the end it was Havant who had the best chances to take all three points back south, and penalty hero Ryan struggled from a similar distance on 76 minutes.
Some excellent work from Kabba to dribble in from the right and tee him up was wasted when he blasted well over, then left-back Alex Grant got forward and saw his prod deflected over two minutes into injury time.
The scores remained level at full time to keep City in fourth place.