By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER extended their unbeaten start to the Wessex League Premier on Saturday afternoon as they hosted Brockenhurst at the On-Site Group Stadium; thrashing the Badgers by a five-nil scoreline in warm conditions to bounce back perfectly from their heart-breaking FA Cup defeat against Sholing last week. And with the five goals spread out throughout the ninety minutes it was an outstanding performance from the clinical Royals’ frontline; although the visitors did have chances to score and deserve credit for their efforts.
The hosts saw the first chance after three minutes as James Cowan’s dipping cross beat the crossbar, whilst Mitchell Speechley-Price laid a pass to Keiron O’Donnell to fire over on seven minutes for Brockenhurst. But the Royals were ahead within another 60 seconds on their next attack as a throw-in reached Ryan Wilkins to play a cross that ended up inside the bottom left corner for one nil; the stadium announcer giving the goal to the home right back to end the confusion and sparked huge celebrations for the big majority of the 282 fans.
There was however no confusion when Portchester doubled their advantage on 11 minutes, a long clearance finding Liam Robinson who ran through and slotted past James Mayo for a 2-0 lead. In reaction Matt Sheedy fired over the crossbar from range and O’Donnell saw a low shot deflected for a corner that ultimately came to nothing in a flurry of away openings, whilst the home goalkeeper Steven Mowthorpe seemed to misjudge a routine-looking catch and had to recover quickly to deny Alex Haynes who was lurking after thirty minutes.
Ronan Moore suffered an injury five minutes later as he tackled a home striker, but the Royals scored their third goal n the interlude between the contact and the substitution off the bench. Conor Bailey’s fine pacey run ended in a cross to Brett Pitman whose header was saved at point blank range, only for the rebound to land at the feet of Harrison Brook who tapped home the rebound; whilst Curtis Da Costa and Marley Ridge went close to adding a fourth goal before half time from separate corners as it remained 3-0 at the interval.
Brockenhurst started with an attacking intent upon the restart as they saw O’Donnell blaze over the bar from twenty-five yards out in space to pick his shot, another effort from the half time substitute Samuel Wilson was cleared off the line by Sam Pearce in an agonising moment for the visitors on fifty three minutes. Portchester did create two chances before the hour mark as Pitman saw his snapshot on the turn blocked at source and Wilkins’ angled shot flicked the side netting whilst in a promising position following good passing on the right.
Substitutions and a water break signalled a quieter spell in proceedings before it was suddenly rejuvenated by the goal of the afternoon for Portchester’s fourth; which came as a curling free-kick was only half cleared and fell into the path of Pitman, who sent a sweet cushioned volley into the far right corner of the net leaving Mayo with no chance whatsoever. Further chances came as Jake Raine skied over and Cowan failed to test the away keeper with his tame shot under pressure, the midfielder fizzing another drive wide on 78 minutes.
Sam Pearce then headed over from a corner as Portchester looked for a fifth, which did arrive with 8 minutes left as Pitman controlled a ball with his back; Raine following up and calmly smashing home a fine effort into the corner. This was the last notable opening for the Royals as Brockenhurst never gave up and they nearly got a consolation goal with three late chances; Jake Thomson’s free kick curler being tipped over the bar by Mowthorpe whilst Jaden Medcraff and Oliver Dennett went close with no avail against a strong home outfit.
Portchester rise to second and maintained their winning start to the campaign, remaining behind a first place Bemerton Heath Harlequins on goal difference only after three games played. Dave Carter’s side will hope to continue this form over the next ten days with successive away matches, starting with a trip to Wiltshire next Saturday for a clash against Shaftesbury at Cockrams. The Royals will then play Baffins Milton Rovers at the PMC Stadium three days later, before they host the current Wessex leaders on September 10 (3pm kick off).
PICTURED BY AFC PORTCHESTER TWITTER: Players prepare for a goal-kick as Royals score five in big victory over Brockenhurst on Saturday afternoon, maintaining their perfect start to the new 2022-23 season.