By Tim Collings at the Liberty Stadium
Rocky Baptiste, a 35-year-old striker who grew up within sight of Wembley Stadium and tasted top-level football briefly at Chelsea and Luton Town, fired lowly Havant & Waterlooville into tomorrow's draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup with a dramatic late equaliser at Swansea City's Liberty Stadium yesterday.
Collecting a cross from Tony Taggart, that was flicked on in the penalty area, he had time and space to look up and drive a firm, low shot beyond Dorus de Vries and into the bottom corner. It ensured that Havant, who are 83 places below Swansea in the league pyramid system, remained the only non-league side in the competition.
But the trainee London taxi driver's well-taken goal, four minutes from the end of normal time, left as many fans jeering in anger as cheering in joy after a controversial tie saw both teams reduced to 10 men and the referee Stuart Attwell criticised for his leniency by Swansea's manager Roberto Martinez.
Swansea, the League One leaders, hit the bar three times, through shots by Jason Scotland, Leon Britton and Darren Pratley, before taking the lead with a superbly struck free-kick by Andy Robinson after 74 minutes. Yet they were left shaking their heads in disbelief; not only at the result, but also at the way in which the official had allowed a series of heavy challenges by the visitors from the Blue Square (South) League in a robust and physically-challenging contest.
"The referee should have stopped it all much earlier," Martinez said. "I am not blaming Havant for the way they played. I give credit to them for their spirit and hard work. It was their great opportunity and they did everything they could to get a result. But it needed a referee with a cool head to keep control and he did not do that. The tackle on Andrea [Orlandi] could have left him with a very bad injury." A series of wild tackles had angered the home crowd before Brett Poate launched himself into a diving two-footed challenge on substitute Orlandi just four minutes after the home team had taken the lead. As referee Attwell produced a red card, players from both teams began a brawl in the middle of the pitch.
Then, to almost universal disbelief, the official produced another red card and sent off the Swansea captain Alan Tate, for his part in the mêle. It was a decisive decision because it left Swansea disorganised in defence and offered the visitors an opportunity to take advantage and grab an equaliser.
The replay, at Havant's Westleigh Park ground, is scheduled to take place a week on Tuesday when Baptiste, scorer of 73 goals in a little more than 100 appearances for the Hawks, hopes he can strike again to secure his dream of a tie with Liverpool. "It's got to be them they have always been my team," he said with a grin.
Baptiste, whose most famous previous FA Cup goal was scored in Farnborough's 5-1 defeat at Highbury four seasons ago, joined Havant in August of 2005, as successor to Dean Holdsworth, and since then has won two trophies as the supporters' player of the year. "I love it," he said.
Baptiste's smile was in contrast to Martinez's frown. Swansea had demonstrated sufficient class to win, but wasted chances and the visitors, missing four of their best 11, had delivered a classic smash-and-grab performance. "I always felt we had a chance," Baptiste added. "They were so confused after that sending-off. We are having a party now."Reuse content