By Connor Steel
SHOLING FC progressed to the 1st Qualifying Round of the country’s famous knockout cup competition on Friday evening as they beat Portchester two-one at the Imperial Homes Stadium, ending the Royals’ perfect start to the new campaign and building their FA Cup hopes in front of almost 400 supporters. And to rub salt into the wounds it was ex-striker Lee Wort who made the key difference in an otherwise tight ninety-minutes between two strong teams, scoring and assisting as Portchester couldn’t force a result despite their efforts.
It was a dream start for the Boatmen as they took an early lead after four minutes, Wort breaking quickly into the penalty area down the left towards the by-line and playing a cut-back pass to find Dan Mason; the striker making little mistake in calmly slotting home past away keeper Steven Mowthorpe at his near post. It should arguably have been 2-0 moments later as Bradley Targett cut inside and found the right foot of an onrushing Charlie Wagstaffe who curled a shot harmlessly over the bar with a 1st time effort despite having more time.
From this point the game went through a quieter period as both cancelled each other out in a cagey midfield battle, Marvin Mclean in particular looking dangerous against away full back Olly Searle and saw his shot fly into the side netting from an angle on seventeen minutes. But the visitors slowly worked their way well in the match as Sam Pearce had his header from a corner saved by home keeper Ryan Gosney, who also tipped a shot from Felipe Barcelos wide at his near post on the half hour to protect the Boatmen’s narrow advantage.
The hosts seemed to settle away momentum with a period of possession that saw them double their lead in just the thirty-eighth minute, Rob Nicholls running through the midfield and releasing Wort; the in-form striker firing across Mowthorpe into the bottom left corner for two-nil. An only negative for the Boatmen came in the 44th minute as their captain Byron Mason went down from a thigh injury to be substituted by Owen Roundell; the last chance before half time coming for Portchester as Jake Raine fed Brett Pitman who saw a shot wide.
Portchester came out strong after the break with a couple of corners that ultimately came to nothing with the Boatmen soon creating many opportunities to extend their lead; the first coming when Wort flashed just wide after good work alongside Mason. Another Wort effort was saved by Mowthorpe before Sami Makhoufi sadly dragged over from the angle following an incisive pass from Targett, whilst Mason created a free run on goal only to be caught in two minds and flashed wide of the upright on 65 minutes as the scores stayed at two-nil.
And Sholing were in danger just sixty seconds later as they suddenly conceded, a straight long ball evading the defence to find Barcelos through on goal; the Brazilian firing home inside the corner with ease to reduce arrears. Portchester nearly equalised on sixty-nine minutes when a close range volley shot was parried away from Gosney at a corner, before denying Ryan Wilkins with his boot whilst a header down the other end by Rob Flooks went over from six yards under pressure with the game now approaching its interesting climax.
Substitutions and injury stoppages broke up the last spell with just one notable chance before the end of 90 minutes, which saw Mclean force Mowthorpe into a smart stop diving to his right side from a tight angle. The officials gave nine minutes of stoppage time which was dominated by late away pressure and crosses in the box, causing pinball that almost saw a late equaliser for Portchester as a controversial set-piece was given; the away keeper coming up and swinging wide with a shot from six yards out as Sholing held out for the win.
Home supporters, players, and staff seemed to be delighted at their progress to the next round, which will be drawn on Monday lunchtime with Gosport Borough also included. For Portchester it was a creditable display against a Southern League team and they could have forced a comeback replay if more luck had gone their way, but will give them some confidence as they return to league action next Saturday against Brockenhurst. Their planned Hampshire Senior Cup game against AFC Totton appears to have now moved to a new date.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Portchester attack breaks down versus highly spirited Sholing defensive display as Boatmen reach first qualifying round of FA Cup with narrow two-one home victory on Friday night.