By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN sealed another knockout victory as they progressed to the Hampshire Senior Cup second round on Tuesday evening, beating Alton one-nil in front of a strong crowd of almost two-hundred fans within Cams Alders. It was a goal from Callum Benfield that settled the overall ninety minutes between two Wessex League Premier opponents, with the hosts arguably dominating overall and missed several chances to build their narrow advantage in Graham Rix’s first win in charge; including a penalty miss just after the hour mark.
The Creeksiders named a strong side but it was Alton who created the first chance after six minutes; a slight miscue from defender Morris Dench falling to ex-Fareham player Siph Mdladlose who failed to covert the big opportunity from close range. In response the hosts saw their first chance on target as Ashley Tattersall fired straight at away keeper Glen Andrews, who further denied Callum Benfield on 14 minutes after good link-up play between Charlie Cooper and Casey Bartlett-Scott fell kindly to his path from an angle twenty yards out.
Another home opportunity arrived on twenty-two minutes when Cooper won an indirect free-kick, which was whipped into the box to find Arthur Kerton who fired into the side netting; the youngster also being denied an arguably soft penalty as he seemed to be fouled attempting this effort. Down the other end Steve Black saw a driven shot wide of the post from range whilst Matt Graham headed a cross from Oli Page harmlessly over the bar after good wing-play either side of the thirty hour mark with the artificial floodlights now shining bright.
Liam Knight then went close following a dangerous delivery from visiting wing back Dan Schofield, whilst the hosts looked to score before the half-time interval with some neat attacking momentum. Most forward moves in this spell included Cooper who hit a long drive skidding inches wide of the near post after being found in a pocket of space down the right, before the winger played a great cross into Josh Benfield after slipping his 2 markers as the striker dragged wide with the Alton keeper beaten; the scores staying goalless at the interval.
Fareham came out quicker upon the restart and took the lead within just 6 minutes, which arrived as Cooper saw his powerful drive parried out by Andrews and fell to Calum Benfield who reacted quicker to slot into the net on a rebound for one-nil. This lead was nearly doubled on 56 minutes when the Benfield brothers linked up with Josh Benfield seeing his low shot poked away by the keeper to force it wide, whilst a looping delivery from Jacob Woods was unfortunate not to end in a goal as it was headed off the line by a tall away defender.
On sixty-six minutes came another chance for Fareham to make it two-nil as they won a penalty; the pacey run of Cooper seeing him brilliantly wiggle between two defenders before being fouled near the by-line area. Calum Benfield stepped up from twelve yards but Andrews dived the correct way to save the spot-kick at the second attempt, offering fresh hope to the visitors as substitute Ali Elisya fired harmlessly wide of goal on the counter and Joe Wotton headed over a corner with just eighteen minutes left in a nervous cup match ending.
Substitutes for both sides signalled a small lull in proceedings before Cooper hit the post from a corner and Garry Moody headed over moments later as Fareham sought to kill the game; Andrews also denying efforts from Ethan Jones and Dench in quick succession. Absorbing these pressures Alton came into life during the final stages but were stifled by the home defence except for one moment in the 86th minute; a longer throw into a crowded penalty area ending in a spell of pinball with Matt Brown slicing over the very last opportunity.
This hard-fought success means that Fareham will progress to the second round of this regional competition, where they will travel to Southern League opponents in the form of Winchester City. But they must turn their attentions to other knockout competitions as they host Romsey Town FC in their FA Vase opening match on Saturday afternoon, whilst a long away trip to Portland United awaits them on Tuesday night in the Wessex League Cup; their next league games being a huge home clash versus Cowes Sports next weekend (03/09).
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN FC: Attacker prepares to shoot in tight home midweek win versus Alton.