Hampshire Senior Cup Final - St Mary's Stadium
Winchester City 1 Havant & Waterlooville 1 (Havant win 5-3 on penalties)
WINCHESTER City suffered penalty shootout heartbreak against Havant & Waterlooville at St Mary’s tonight after simply running out of steam in the Hampshire FA Senior Cup final.
The Southern League underdogs were still leading through a 30th-minute Andy Forbes strike as the game entered its closing stages.
But as tired legs took their toll on the Citizens, Dan Strugnell pulled the Hawks on terms and it was Lee Bradbury’s men who triumphed 5-3 from the spot to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
Winchester almost got off to a dream start when a golden opportunity presented itself with less than two minutes gone.
Warren Bentley found Taz Roberts who skipped round keeper Ryan Young on the right of the area, but the nippy No7’s shot lacked power, allowing ex-Saint Andy Robinson to intervene with a last-ditch clearance.
The Hawks’ first real moment of menace came four minutes later when Nic Ciardini worked himself an opening but fired wide and the same fate befell skipper Scott Donnelly with a 16th-minute free-kick.
Although Havant’s higher league pedigree shone through in their approach play, their poor finishing reflected a season of struggle in the National League South.
With Leigh Mills (work), Craig Feeney (cup-tied) and Matt Benham (injured) all unavailable, Winchester’s options were limited so it was a relief when midfielder Adam Tomasso was able to continue after a crunching challenge by James Haran which saw the Hawks man booked.
It was a real gutsy performance by Winchester who showed promise when Micky Hubbards’s free-kick came off Shamir Mullings’ head, forcing his own 'keeper to tip the ball behind.
That was the prelude to a truly remarkable turn of events on the half-hour when returning hero Forbes fired the underdogs ahead.
Warren Bentley profited from Theo Lewis's loose pass and, though keeper Young stuck out a boot to divert his shot, Forbes showed all his old predatory instincts to tuck it away.
When the Hawks finally did get a shot on target following Tomasso’s yellow card challenge on Paterson, City’s Canadian goalkeeper Brendan Norris brilliantly pushed Donnelly’s free-kick over.
After a quiet start to the second half, Havant looked odds on to equalise on 55 minutes when Mullings, at full stretch, stabbed the ball wide of the far post after great work by Paterson.
Having had a clear penalty shout turned down for Young’s challenge on Bentley, Winchester forced a corner but Rob Flooks couldn’t keep his header down from Micky Hubbard's delivery.
Havant sub Ben Swallow announced his arrival with a long-range blast onto the roof of the net before exhausted City goal machine Bentley limped out of the action.
Norris then made another vital save to keep out another Havant sub, James Hayter, at his near post.
With Winchester out on their feet it was only sheer determination driving them on before Havant drove a dagger through their hearts.
Try as they might to clear a high ball, City’s weary bodies couldn’t manage it and Dan Strugnell ruthlessly smashed home for 1-1.
Hawks thought they had won it in added time, but Swallow’s header was disallowed, and the game went straight to a penalty shootout.
Alas for Winchester it was not to be with Havant sinking all five spot-kicks, while City’s opener from Jamie Barron was well saved by Young.
Hubbard, Tomasso and sub Howard Newton all scored theirs but, fittingly, it was St Mary’s old boy Robinson who struck the Hawks' killer blow.
One piece of news to brighten up City's night was defeat for sixth-placed Evesham at Bishops Cleeve in the Southern One South & West.
It means victory at home to Larkhall Athletic on Saturday will guarantee Paul Masters' men a place in the play-offs.
Winchester City: Brendan Norris, Jake Newton, Danny King, Jamie Barron, Jamie Thoroughgood, Rob Flooks, Adam Roberts, Micky Hubbard, Andy Forbes (Dan Evverton, 87), Warren Bentley (Howard Newton, 72), Adam Tomasso. Subs: Dan Sayers, Harrison Fay, Michael Miller.
Havant & Waterlooville: Ryan Young, Dan Strugnell, James Haran, Theo Lewis, Andy Robinson. Josh Hill, Nick Ciardini (George Barker, 76), Scott Donnelly, Shamir Mullings (James Hayter, 62), Matt Paterson, Aaron Mitchell (Ben Swallow, 62). Subs: Lee Molyneaux, Warren Cummings.
Referee: Gary Parsons (Lymington)