National League South
St Albans City
Joe Newton (og) 44
Havant & Waterlooville
Nightmare return for Joe Newton as own-goal gives St Albans City victory over Havant
- Credit: DANNY LOO
Joe Newton's return to Hertfordshire will not be one he will remember with fondness as an unfortunate own-goal was the only difference between his Havant & Waterlooville side and St Albans City.
The former Colney Heath and Royston Town defender inadvertently got on the end of inviting Tom Bender cross a minute before half-time, reacting instinctively when the ball skipped past an attacker in front of him but only skewing it into the corner of his own net for a 1-0 City win.
It was his second own-goal in as many games and in the end it was one of those close contests that always seems to be separated by a moment of magic or a mistake.
Saints will look on this as a huge three points though as memories of their slow start are well and truly banished.
They are now in the play-off places and sixth while Havant are down in 10th.
Speaking after the midweek FA Cup win over Concord Rangers, manager Ian Allinson had hinted at a number of changes in order to give squad members without many minutes a run out.
In the end there were just two differences from the starting line-up in the 2-0 replay win.
Callum Adebiyi and Huw Dawson came into the side but while one of the two going out was no surprise David Noble rested after starting both games against the Beachboys, Mitchell Weiss can consider himself unfortunate to miss out.
Havant had also advanced to the third qualifying round of the famous old cup with a less-than straight-forward 5-3 win over Beaconsfield Town on Saturday and their boss Paul Doswell went with three alterations.
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The two sides had started the year as two of the more-fancied outfits in the division and the first 45 minutes were as nip and tuck as expected.
City almost struck in the second minute when a free-kick from Johnny Goddard's free-kick was headed goalward, striking Thomas Wright and bouncing up towards Shaun Jeffers.
Havant's goalkeeper Ross Worner did well to dive and flick the ball away from the striker.
The visitors then came back into it and had the chances for the next 20-odd minutes.
Billy Clifford and Wright were their main creative sources and both were denied by Michael Johnson in the same minute while another combination allowed Clifford to curl one beyond the keeper but not past the crossbar, the ball bouncing back into play and safety.
City had started with a back three and two wing-backs, Joy Mukena looking surprisingly dangerously down the right, but he was switched to the centre of defence with Dave Diedhiou as right back in a back four.
That led to City's best spell of the half and ultimately a goal.
Jeffers had two chances, one saved by Worner and the second deflected behind, but in the end it was Newton's unfortunate intervention that provided the breakthrough.
The second half began with a forced change for City, Weiss on in place of Diedhiou who returned to the dugout with ice strapped to his left thigh.
And the substitute instantly gave the hosts something new from an attacking point of view, bursting from a deeper position with one run taking him into the box and clipping an effort wide.
Akinola also forced the keeper into a save from a similar position but Havant were still creating chances of their own, Wright and Abduli Baggie both off target with efforts.
There was still little between the two sides but play was disrupted by niggly fouls and substitutions.
Jeffers should have wrapped it up though with 17 minutes to go as he cut inside from the right.
He skipped past two defenders but then with just the keeper to beat, he rolled it wide of goal.
He had a second chance which he nodded onto the roof of the net and Weiss was then denied by Worner on a two-on-one break.
But it wasn't needed because as much as Havant huffed and puffed, Johnson remained untroubled.
St Albans City: Johnson, Bender, Wiltshire, Akinola (Banton 85), Jeffers, Diedhiou (Weiss 46), Dawson, Lankshear, Adebiyi, Mukena, Goddard (Sole 90+4).
Subs (not used): Bani, Noble.
Goal: Newton (og) 44
Booked: Akinola 59, Johnson 77
Havant & Waterlooville: Worner, Oastler, Magri, McCarthy, Rooney, Clifford, Baggie (Passley 63), Newton, Gobern, Wright, Roberts (Wall 63).
Subs (not used): Adebowale, Collins, Rendell.
Booked: Rooney 36, Clifford 65, Oastler 67, Gobern 90+4
HT: St Albans City 1 Havant & Waterlooville 0
Referee: Greg Rollason (Wolverhampton)