A little over three years ago, Danny Haynes provided one of the best moments I’ve experienced as a Charlton supporter. His audacious volley, dipping over a stranded Kasper Schmeichel, giving the Addicks a stunning victory over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
An incredible win at the time, but one that has arguably become more special given the two different directions the clubs have headed in since. Charlton in complete crisis; Leicester closing in on being champions of England. It feels like an entire era has passed since Yann Kermorgant’s’ second silencing act, Haynes’ stunner, and Chris Powell’s side inflicting defeat upon the hosts at the King Power.
Much has also changed for some of the protagonists involved in February 2013. Johnnie Jackson and Chris Solly the only Addicks in the squad that night that remain at the club, Ben Hamer now a Fox, and Jamie Vardy’s non-league to international fairytale story greatly developed from the time it was stalling on Leicester’s bench.
And if it is Vardy, from unused substitute to England goalscorer, who has grown more than anyone that was involved at the KP three years ago, then maybe we can call Haynes the anti-Vardy.
Not quite international to part-time footballer, but from filling me with joy by scoring a sensational winner at the soon-to-be Premier League winners to inflicting misery upon me with a goal in victory for Boreham Wood against Dover Athletic, my non-league team of choice.
Haynes, on loan at the National League strugglers from Peter Varney’s Ebbsfleet, appeared unmarked at the back post in first-half stoppage-time to head home and add to Jamie Lucas’ third minute well-taken goal at Meadow Park.
Lucas, capitalising on a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Mitch Walker and defender Richard Orlu, was able to add a third with nine minutes to play, sealing a win for Boreham Wood as unlikely as Charlton’s at Leicester in 2013.
Dover unbeaten in five, occupying a play-off position, and coming into the game after a 5-0 thrashing of Torquay on Saturday, while Boreham Wood were without a win in five, found themselves in the bottom four prior to kick-off, and had been hammered 4-1 by leaders Cheltenham Town on Friday.
But it was certainly not an undeserved win for the hosts, nor a margin of victory that didn’t reflect the difference in quality between the two sides over the course of the 90 minutes. An attendee without knowledge of the National League would have assumed it was Boreham Wood attempting to cling onto a play-off spot, and Dover attempting to avoid falling into the sixth tier of English football.
The contrast between the two sides apparent from the start, or at least after Haynes, playing on the left wing, had slipped while attempting to control a punt up field from kick-off. Wood’s third minute strike not a fortunate goal against the run of play, but setting the tempo of the game.
Full-back Ben Nunn picking up possession in his own half and allowed to bomb forward unchallenged, the ball worked to Clovis Kamdjo, and a static Dover defence effectively watching on as Lucas turned the flamboyantly-haired midfielder’s low delivery beyond Walker.
The hosts exploiting a sort of unorganised defending that Charlton would be proud of, and continuing to do so once the game restarted. Boreham Wood, pressing in a structured fashion when out of possession and breaking with pace and strength having regained the ball, easily able to pick off the loose touches and wayward passes of the usually influential Nicky Deverdicks in midfield, while constantly leaving Dover’s backline in a state of panic. Kamdjo picked out in space on the edge of the box, but unable to keep his strike down.
So it was against the run of play that the visitors created a decent opening of their own. Ricky Miller breaking into the box, with Ricky Modeste screaming for a pass to his right, only to drag a shot tamely wide.
A sign, though, that Dover still had the quality to get back into this game. A threat of sorts certainly existing down either flank, with Modeste and Craig Braham-Barrett lively, but a final ball was lacking.
Boreham Wood’s deliveries, however, were providing much greater concern to their opposition’s backline. A chip to the back post from Haynes, growing into the game but yet to make a real impression, vitally intercepted by Jack Parkinson with a forward lurking.
And further worry was provided to visiting supporters as Modeste, battling with goalkeeper James Russell to meet a Braham-Barrett cross, immediately held his hamstring having hauled himself up off the floor. His afternoon over, and Tom Murphy on to replace him.
The enforced change certainly not helping Dover to settle. A Boreham Wood player clumsily brought to ground in the middle as Sean Raggett desperately hacking a Haynes ball across the face of goal away, but the referee showed no interest.
Nor did the official as Kamdjo broke into the box from out wide, and appeared to be quite obviously tripped by Chris Kinnear Junior’s outstretched leg as he entered the box. The visitors incredibly fortunate to still only be trailing by one, and thankful once again moments later as Haynes could only produce a tame shot straight at Walker after an excellent run.
But it would not be long, although long enough for the referee to be injured and need to be replaced by his female assistant, before the former Addick would show a great deal more potency.
Again, it was a goal that could have been avoided were it not for slack Dover defending. Those in blue seemingly content to watch an overhit cross go out of play, but Conor Clifford was able to keep the delivery in play with relative ease, and calmly pick out an unmarked Haynes at the back post. He need only cushion the ball towards goal to double his side’s lead and score his second since joining Boreham Wood on loan.
Not quite that goal at Leicester, but an important one in the context of this game.
Particularly with Dover, though still not anywhere near the sort of quality you would expect, starting the second period with some intent. Stefan Payne’s curling effort from the edge of the box denied by a stunning save from Russell, before beating the goalkeeper only for the referee to adjudge there had been a foul in the build-up. Dubious, but the sexist comments towards an official that was controlling the game very well completely unnecessary.
In fact, the more questionable decision making belonged to those in Dover shirts. Braham-Barrett’s low drive from a tight angle blocked off by Russell when a pullback might have been the better option, and excellent hold up play from Payne tainted by his resulting strike skimming harmlessly across the face of goal.
And though these chances were promising, certainly in comparison to their efforts in the first half, time was not on Dover’s side. Twenty minutes to play as Nunn turned a corner goalwards, only for Walker to save with confidence and keep the visitors in the game.
But that they remained in the game seemed to matter little when they were so timid when in the final third, and struggled to find ways past a defiant and still well-organised Boreham Wood backline. Deverdicks seemingly always looking for a pass that wasn’t there, and Murphy’s deliveries were not pleasant.
Even when Dover thought they might have found a way through, the hosts recovered. Scott Doe hacking a goalbound ball clear after Russell spilled under pressure from Payne, before the goalkeeper again denied the forward in superb fashion, tipping his header over the bar.
A solace of sorts could be found in the genuine discomfort voiced around me whenever Haynes carried the ball forward, as he continued to cause a threat with a little over ten minutes to play. An attempt to replicate a slightly less spectacular version of his goal against Derby, cutting in and lifting the ball towards the top corner, not too far away. The former Addick then subbed with his hamstrings still intact.
Dover’s pride, however, was certainly not left intact. For Walker, as composed and confident as anyone wearing a Dover shirt, somehow managed to spill the ball having come to collect as Orlu attempted to hold off Lucas. The forward, unable to believe his luck, tapping into an empty net and leaving Walker crestfallen.
A complete mess that reflected Dover’s efforts throughout the game. It would have been four had a through-on-goal Kamdjo not seen his strike well blocked by Orlu, but further embarrassment was to come as Murphy, having been brought on earlier in the contest, was withdrawn with five minutes to play. Many others in Dover colours lucky to be seeing out 90 minutes.
But while they had unquestionably been dire, with regular watchers suggesting this was Dover’s worst performance of the season, it would be wrong to suggest that is the only reason Boreham Wood recorded such an emphatic victory.
Their game plan, keep it tight at the back, battle hard in midfield and exploit an uncomfortable defence on the break, was incredibly effective. Even in those second-half moments when Dover applied pressure, Boreham Wood’s backline had a commendable resolve about it, and the visitors were allowed no time on the ball on the edge of the box.
In contrast, of course, to Dover’s defensive efforts. Second to every loose ball, giving the opposition far too much space and time on the ball, and far too nervy to suggest their backline was anything like resolute. The conceding of three completely avoidable goals through defensive sloppiness about right.
You hope, particularly if they are to maintain their play-off place, that this was merely a one-off horror show that I have been unfortunately subjected to.
Maintaining, however, is something I hope one player that featured at Meadow Park doesn’t do. Not only because he scored against Dover, but there was a bittersweet feeling about seeing Haynes, who provided some other enjoyable moments in a very likeable Charlton side, play once again.
A player capable of doing things like he did for the Addicks in the Championship should not be playing at this level at just 28.
The reason why he’s representing Boreham Wood is relatively obvious. His horrendous injury record, which not only harms his chances of playing but so too his ability. Each hamstring strain will have made him weaker.
And he was not mesmerising or a class above, like he probably should have been, but he played very well. There is still a decent amount of quality there, and I do hope he can return to the Football League.
While Vardy has been given an opportunity to fulfil his potential, you can’t help but feel that maybe Haynes’ situation means potential has been left unfulfilled. Not to the same extent, obviously, but I find it incredibly frustrating that a player who gave me lots of thrills hasn’t had the career he should have.
At the very least, as Vardy, a man who watched his match-winning volley from Leicester’s bench, continues to rise, I hope Haynes can at least halt his fall. Like almost every player that featured in *the* Chris Powell sides, I appreciate him.