Powell makes light of heavy conditions for Hanham Hawks
IN one of the few games to be played on a soggy November day, Hanham Athletic Hawks deservedly gained their first points of the season courtesy of a 2-0 victory over fellow early strugglers St Vallier, thanks in large part to Star Man Lewis Powell, who scored both goals.
St Vallier started the game looking the brighter side and, four minutes in, had the game's first shot through Josh Morris, but the striker was leaning back as he shot on the swivel and the ball flew comfortably over the bar from just inside the box.
St Vallier then had another chance from a corner after Phil Twinn's delivery from the right was flicked on at the front post by Abdi Mohamed, but the ball was intercepted by a Hanham defender just before it reached Ollie Walker, who was poised to strike six yards out.
The visitors continued to attack but, like their opponents, they lacked any real threat as both Morris and Mohamed fired wide of Connor Collins' goal from just outside the Hanham penalty area.
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Hanham's first shot on target was a long time coming, but it eventually came 24 minutes in when Nick Gretton picked the ball up 40 yards from goal and unleashed a speculative, but well-struck effort, however the shot was well held by Jack McDaid, who had to be careful with two strikers ready to pounce if he lost the ball.
Soon after, Hanham almost snatched the lead when Powell cleverly rolled his man on the edge of the St Vallier box before beating two more defenders and lashing the ball goalwards with his left foot, but his effort from a relatively tight angle was superbly palmed away by McDaid and Mohamed cleared the danger.
Four minutes before half-time, McDaid was tested again after Zach Jackson cleverly worked his way along the byline and into the St Vallier box where he attempted to curl the ball around the keeper from a tight angle, but McDaid got his hands to the ball and fisted it away to safety.
The first half really lacked enough clear goalscoring opportunities, but ended up fairly even with both teams keeping the ball well. St Vallier possibly playing the better passing football as Abdi Mohamed and Liam Dorman bossed the game from centre midfield, but Hanham looked to have the greater attacking threat through Powell and Jackson as the visitors struggled to produce in the final third.
The second half started very differently with Hanham looking by far the brighter side, and Jackson forced a good block from McDaid in the opening few minutes, after the striker had skilfully worked his way past the St Vallier defence and into the box.
The home side then thought they'd scored when Mitch Young's free-kick was palmed by McDaid straight into the path of George Kenny, who fired the ball beyond the grounded keeper, but Mohamed was in the right place at the right time for St Vallier as he cleared the effort off the line. The danger wasn't over though as the ball was pumped back into the St Vallier box where McDaid came charging out to meet it.
For a second it looked as if the keeper had misjudged the bounce and that Ben Bryant would be left with an open goal, but, at full stretch, McDaid just managed to get enough on the ball to stop it and Twinn was able to clear.
It was then Joe Radall who came to St Vallier's rescue when Powell's effort was deflected up towards Rhys Cleverly, who was bursting into the box, but the diminutive Radall managed to get to the ball and clear the danger with a superb overhead kick.
Hanham continued to threaten with Cleverly forcing a good save from McDaid, before Hanham captain Christian Box chipped the ball up to himself and volleyed it goalwards on the swivel, but his fantastic effort narrowly missed the near post.
With less than a quarter of the game to go, St Vallier almost caught Hanham on the break when Dorman threaded a lovely through ball in between two Hanham defenders for Assad Mohamed to chase but, as the defenders chased him down, Mohamed shot straight at Collins.
Hanham were soon back on the attack when Jackson was brought down by Twinn, but a good advantage from referee Sam Hilton allowed the move to continue as Powell picked up the loose ball and poked it right to Bryant but, after continuing his run into the box, Powell couldn't quite get on the end of Bryant's cross.
With not long remaining it looked as if the game was destined to be a 0-0 draw but, nine minutes from time, Hanham finally made their second-half pressure pay off as they broke the deadlock. Box appeared to have nothing on as he stood near the byline to the left hand side of the Vallier box with Radall in front of him but, with one swift flick of his foot, the Hanham captain managed to work enough space to be able to float the ball across to the back post where it was met firmly by Powell, who headed the ball down into the ground and past the helpless McDaid.
Despite their best efforts, St Vallier couldn't muster another goalscoring chance in the final few minutes and, to cap it all off, Powell doubled his and his team's tally a minute from time.
The striker's first effort on the swivel was well saved by McDaid, but Bryant was quickest to react and, from a tight angle to the left hand side of the goal, he pulled the ball back for Powell, who made no mistake at the second time of asking as he drilled the ball in from six yards.
Ultimately, Hanham deserved their 2-0 victory as they upped the tempo and completely dominated the second half after a fairly even first half, with Collins barely being tested all game long, while his opposite number McDaid certainly had more to do.
On a final note, it was also very refreshing to encounter two Division One managers for whom the spirit of the play was far more important than the result itself, and they both deserve special mention for that – there are certainly many others who could learn a thing or two from their fair play approach and attitude to the game.
Hanham Athletic Hawks: Connor Collins, Matt Jackson, Olly Callaghan, Elliot Lyne, Christian Box, Josh Baber, Nick Gretton, Ben Bryant, Rhys Cleverly, Lewis Powell, Mitch Young, Jordan Usher, Harry Sutton, Zach Jackson, George Kenny.
St Vallier: Jack McDaid, Abdi Mohamed, Dean Jones, Charlie Peacock, Phil Twinn, Ollie Walker, Fraser Venables, Liam Dorman, Josh Morris, Jack Cooke, Joe Radall, Nick Evans, Assad Mohamed, Rhys Watkins, Ben McQuaid.