Three goals and four goal line clearances; it was an incredible all-round team performance that carried Gloucester City past Havant and Waterlooville to progress to the FA Cup 3rdQualifying Round.
A date with Southern League South and West side Yate Town awaits, and it was City’s two ex-Yate players Matt Groves and Scott Wilson who shattered the Hawks either side of half-time before Lewis Hogg’s low free kick just about sealed the win.
Christian Nanetti had scored a penalty after skipper Matt Coupe handled in the box, and a 94th minute strike from Sahr Kabba was just too late to build up a response.
Heroic defending throughout from Dave Mehew’s troops quelled the Hawks attack with Tyler Weir twice, Jack Harris and Coupe all magnificently clearing off Mike Green’s line.
Sunday’s first half was tetchy, a drab affair but with eight attempts in the first 13 minutes, this was more like Basketball; Kabba’s two effort and Wilson’s effort from close range were the best from the bunch.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Dennis Oli rose highest after Green misjudged the corner, only for Weir to clear off the line on the far post; City were living on the edge.
But, they made the breakthrough with Groves scoring his maiden City goal after Hogg’s dangerous free kick had found the midfielder free near the penalty spot, Groves chose his spot and smashed it home.
The lead didn’t last long with Coupe handling in the box and referee Gary Jerden gave a harsh penalty which Nanetti converted; the goal seemed to revitalise Havant and City were glad to hear the whistle for the break.
35 seconds, that’s all it took – Mehew’s inspirational half-time teamtalk saw City come out flying and with Sam Rawlings pumping the ball in the area, it reached Wilson at the back post and he clobbered it in.
The pivotal moment came only seconds after that, with City still on a high, Kabba tore at the City defence, cut back and shot, but Harris was there for an extraordinary clearance off the line.
The Tigers soaked up the pressure and the Hawks could only shoot from afar, Nanetti trying his luck from 30 yards.
Lewis Hogg, who arguably produced his finest performance in a City shirt, struck a low and hard free kick from 25 yards that proved too hot to handle for Fitzsimmons and nestled into the net; it was finally feeling like City’s night.
Havant shuffled and put three up front, and Green was forced into action with substitute Scott Jones shooting from the right.
For a fourth time, and Weir’s second, City cleared off their goal line; this time with a pumped in free kick from Nanetti causing issues in the area.
The Hawks pushed and pushed and City finally succumbed with Kabba blasting home; but it was the final action of a pulsating FA Cup tie and a wonderful night for Gloucester City.
Havant and Waterlooville: R. Fitzsimmons, J. Newton, D. Blanchett, N. Atangara, D. Strugnell, R. Woodford, C. Nanetti, P. Ryan, D. Oli (Przespolewski 83), S. Kabba, N. Ciardini (Jones 74)
Subs Not Used: E. Hutchinson, P. Monteiro, A. Harris, S. Ramsey, C. Searle
Goals: Nanetti 29, pen, Kabba 90+4
Gloucester City: M. Green, S. Rawlings, T. Weir, M. Coupe, J. Harris, T. Webb, L. Hogg (Liddiard 69), D. Mullings, W. Morford, S. Wilson (Parker 80), M. Groves
Subs Not Used: N. Phillips, D. Edwards, J. Lee, L. Binns, M. Green
Goals: Groves 22, Wilson 46, Hogg 67