By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER furthered their perfect start to the Wessex Premier League as it returned after the two week hiatus following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, thrashing Alresford Town 6-0 at Arlebury Park to get their sixth victory from six matches in the 2022-23 campaign so far. And on another day the Royals may well have won with a much bigger margin as they dominated throughout the ninety-minutes, scoring three apiece in each half as their performance matched their nickname on a day full of tributes to Her Majesty the Queen.
In sunny conditions it didn’t take long for Portchester to make an impact, taking the lead after just 8 minutes as James Cowan’s corner was brilliantly headed home by Ryan Wilkins past stranded home keeper Callum Smart into the top right. Alresford responded well with 2 half chances as Nick Yeomans fired wide and Sam Shepherd drove over the crossbar on 13 minutes, the visitors otherwise dominating the possession in their quest for a second early goal with Brett Pitman drifting an effort into the side netting just sixty seconds later.
The visitors did double their advantage on nineteen minutes as Harrison Brook ran down the right and saw his low shot kept out by Smart’s outstretched boot; the rebound falling kindly to George Barker fifteen yards out and the winger made no mistake in rolling home despite 2 defenders on the goalline. Barker then went close to his second on 23 minutes when he sent a low shot deflecting past the post, whilst his cross into the box was only half cleared to find Liam Robson whose effort lacked pace to test Smart on thirty-one minutes.
Away dominance continued as a corner was headed wide at the far post by Pitman, who also nodded over a good in-swinging delivery from Marley Ridge; Brook setting up Sam Pearce on 37 minutes to fire harmlessly over the crossbar from twenty yards. A third goal was looming and it soon arrived on forty-three minutes as a corner caused pinball inside the home penalty area, falling to Pearce via Pitman’s chest and the shot from 20 yards hit the bottom of the net to send Portchester three-nil up going into the half time point after added time.
Despite Alresford seeing James Parker-Trott fire straight at Steven Mowthorpe in the away goal, Portchester were still asserting control and went close to a fourth as Robinson set up Pitman who saw his effort blocked at source by the backtracking Sam Steele on 52 minutes. Brook then slashed over after cutting inside as the visitors finally got their 4th just before the hour mark; Barker’s cross being recycled by Robinson whose low deflected pass found Cowan who sent a effort spinning into the corner off the far post from twenty yards out.
It was five-nil after 63 minutes as Cowan broke forward into the area but was fouled after ghosting past his marker for a spot kick, which was converted easily by Pitman as he sent Smart the wrong way rolling a low z\effort into the opposite corner. Substitutions for both sides signalled a lull with the game already over as a meaningful contest, before the stadium combined together to pay tribute to Her Majesty the Queen in a fine minute’s applause on the seventh minute including another passionate rendition of the UK national anthem.
George Kirby almost scored a consolation goal on 77 minutes as he saw a shot on target deflected wide, the corner being expertly cleared by Portchester defenders. And after a chance for the young Harry Beckley who drove over with Ryan Pennery firing wide, the score was made six-nil with five minutes later. It started from a throw-in that saw Pitman link up with Pennery whose pass released Cowan to rifle home past Smart; the last goal of the afternoon despite Pennery going close in stoppage time as a drive was somehow deflected wide.
Dave Carter’s team remain second behind Bemerton Heath Harlequins as only goal difference separates the two sides at the top; their clash last weekend postponed until October 4 as a mark of respect. However their attentions must now turn to cup games with Portchester set to play AFC Totton in the Hampshire Senior Cup on Tuesday night, before they travel to East Cowes Victoria in the FA Vase next weekend. A third cup clash in ten days will see the Royals visit New Milton Town to end the month of September before a busy October.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Portchester players celebrate one of their six goals in massive victory at Arlebury Park under sunny skies on Saturday afternoon, a win that keeps pressure on at the league summit.