By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN were dealt a frustrating blow as they let a two-goal advantage slip on the seaside, drawing two-apiece with Bournemouth Poppies at Victoria Park. On a hard and bumpy pitch due to recent weather conditions, the Creeksiders were two-nil ahead on Saturday afternoon before a late double from the hosts left them with dropped points; Pete Stiles’ men rueing missed opportunities as two penalties were not scored by Fareham strikers alongside a late winner disallowed for a foul.
In overcast conditions Bournemouth started the brighter and created their first opportunity when a free-kick from captain Conor Jevon looked to be nestling into the bottom corner, but was denied by a smart save by returning goalkeeper John Webb after eight minutes. Marcus Cullen headed over at the resulting corner and Sami Garcia fired over the bar, whilst Fareham’s first chance came after 17 minutes when Ryan Mackney passed to Elliott Holmes whose shot was saved by Reece Mitchell’s leg.
From this point Fareham asserted their dominance with a series of chances, starting with a Charlie Cooper effort that was dragged wide on 21 minutes and Stuart Morgan flicked a Josh Benfield pass over the bar from close range. Just before the half hour mark Casey Bartlett-Scott linked up down the right with Morgan and found Benfield in space, with the midfielder’s shot inches wide of the far post. Curt Robbins then saw his shot saved by the Bournemouth goalkeeper after left wing interplay.
The hosts created a brief scare on 34 minutes as a long ball forward caught out the away defence to find Ewan Haylor through on goal, but his lobbed effort cleared both the crossbar and goalkeeper. It took five minutes for the next chance as Fareham were awarded a penalty as Benfield was fouled in the area, Ethan Jones stepping up and saw his effort saved by Mitchell down low to spark low cheers around the stadium. The referee blew for half time shortly afterwards with the scores stuck at nil-nil.
Fareham took the lead after 49 minutes after starting the second period in control, Benfield setting a pass through to find Morgan who made no mistake in firing home inside the post despite the efforts of the Bournemouth. And after Robbins had gone close, the visitors doubled their lead when a rising effort bounced off the keeper’s chest and fell to Benfield who simply guided his rebound home. This nearly became 3-0 on 59 minutes as Cooper set Holmes away but his first time shot was inches over.
Substitutes for both sides signalled a lull in proceedings as Bournemouth began to attack more, their next chance coming after 68 minutes when Lewis Harvey fired a powerful drive past Webb’s post. In the 75th minute Benfield carved out a chance by robbing the hesitant full back but saw his low effort saved well, whilst substitute Gary Austin saw a header wide just five minutes later. But the hosts did look dangerous on the counters and were left frustrated as Marcus Cullen was sinbinned for dissent.
This threat was rewarded on 83 minutes as Bournemouth won a penalty, which was taken by Jevon and although the initial penalty was saved; the striker converted the rebound on the third attempt in the corner. Down the other end Benfield did score a third Fareham goal, but celebrations were over for a foul on the full back; a harsh decision that caused annoyance and the hosts took advantage by equalising through Jevon on 88 minutes as he was played through on goal. There was still time for a late moment of drama as Fareham won a penalty as Ross Kidson was fouled in the box, but for a 2nd time of the afternoon the spot-kick was missed by Tom Settle as he dragged wide; both teams having to settle for a draw.
Having let another two-goal lead slip after defeat to Portchester on Bank Holiday Monday, Fareham now sit in twelfth place in the Wessex League Premier after 24 games including nine wins and ten defeats. Attentions must now turn to cup action as they host Locks Heath in the Portsmouth Cup in the quarter final stage; before travelling to Alton next Saturday afternoon. Fareham will then travel and play Baffins Milton Rovers in the league, this derby encounter postponed from December due to a waterlogged pitch.
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN MEDIA: Previous Wessex League Premier encounter played between Bournemouth Poppies and Fareham at Victoria Park