Goals from Dean Inman and Rhys Murrell-Williamson were not enough to keep United from defeat at Westleigh Park as hosts Havant & Waterlooville netted four times to run out winners on a heavy surface that cut up in places from start to finish.
Phil Babb made one enforced change to his starting line-up, with striker David Moli unavailable, new arrival from Torquay United, Elliot Benyon came in up front alongside 17 year-old Dylan Kearney.
It was United who started the sharper. Just six minutes in Rhys Murrell-Williamson collected a quickly taken Wes Daly free-kick on the left, breezed past Dan Strugnell and hit a rasping drive from an acute angle that Hawks skipper Ryan Young reacted well to push over.
A minute later United were ahead, Mason Spence swung in a corner from the right that was met by Dean Inman who placed his header perfectly into the far corner of the Hawks net with Young rooted to the spot.
Sadly for United the lead lasted just five minutes. Bradley Bubb collected the ball inside the United box and tried to find the near post from an angle, Calum Kitscha did well to get down at the foot of the post to push the ball out and as Inman slipped when attempting to clear, his clearance fell straight to Strugnell who curled his shot just inside the far post.
This gave the Hawks a boost and they started to press back the United defence with Bradley Bubb increasingly becoming a major threat. Just minutes after pulling level, Bubb broke away down the left, turned past Greg Morgan and picked out former United man Ben Wright who saw his shot saved by Kitscha.
On the half hour mark Bubb again got free on the left, this time finding Nic Ciardini who was twice denied at point blank range by a combination of Kitscha and Inman before being cautioned for sliding in too hard on the United stopper.
The Hawks seemed to have a knack of placing their long passes at the feet of a striker and just after the half hour the ball was sent through the middle to Bubb who with an excellent touch and turn raced goalwards only to be denied by an excellent Greg Morgan challenge in the middle as he came across from right-back with Kitscha diving on the loose ball.
As half time approached Kitscha was again in action, this time blocking a Wright effort at point blank range and when the follow-up from Scott Donnelly beat the United ‘keeper, Wes Daly was on hand to clear off the line.
Kitscha was to be beaten again before the break, another punt upfield by Donnelly to Bubb saw the striker run clear at goal and as Kitscha came out to kick clear the ball the two arrived at the same time with the striker’s touch being stronger the ball ran through and allowed him to walk the ball home unchallenged.
It took the Hawks just six minutes after the break to increase their lead. Good work from Josh Huggins and Ciardini on the left saw the latter pick out Bubb in the middle and he slid the ball past Kitscha unopposed from close range.
United were straight back at the Hawks despite this setback and on 54 minutes Dylan Kearney rose above his marker to meet a Daly centre only for his header to come back off the face of the post before being put out for a corner.
Adam Everitt’s initial flag kick was put out for another and although this was also cleared, Everitt recovered the ball and with the aid of a deflection found Murrell-Williamson on the edge of the box with the winger steering his first time shot past Young low into the far corner.
Chances were few and far between for 20 minutes with defences on top until former United striker Ben Wright collected miss-hit Donnelly shot and curled the ball through a crowd and past Kitscha to restore the Hawks two goal advantage.
United still continued to move forwards but with tired legs due to the heaviness of the pitch after the recent rainfall it was not to be. Indeed the final chance of the games came in the last minute when two Hawks substitutes combined with Shamir Mullings meeting a deep Ben Swallow cross, forcing another save from Kitscha at close range.
Report by Kevin Watts.
United Man of the Match: Rhys Murrell-Williamson.