IT MAY be early days in the 2021-22 campaign but two favourites of the Hampshire Premier League faced up in midweek as Fleetlands travelled to Paulsgrove hoping to get their first win at Marsden Road since November 2016.
But despite going 1-0 up, the Coptermen were pegged back by a home comeback as they succumbed to a narrow 2-1 defeat with two goals from striker Shane Cornish sealing Paulsgrove’s win.
Wearing yellow and blue the home side started brilliantly on a sunny evening and should have taken the lead within the opening minute, with Louis Tyler’s rising effort clipping the crossbar when well-placed and perhaps should have hit the target. Fifteen minutes later, Shane Cornish managed to beat two defenders to a cross and toe-poked an effort towards goal, but the ball simply rolled the wrong side of the far post as Paulsgrove began to assert dominance.
In response Fleetlands found space and launched the ball forward with a goal coming on the first attack on 17 minutes. Striker Kelvin Robinson ran down the right and delivered a cross to find the unmarked Sam Chandler at the far post; with the attacker heading into the corner past a stranded home goalkeeper Taylor Revy.
The finish seemed to silence the home supporters in large numbers, but this didn’t stop their side from asserting more dominance on the Fleetlands goal before the break.
It was almost one-way traffic in the final 20 minutes of the first half, which began when Cornish fired a curling free kick just wide from 25 yards. Moments later Michael Baker forced a solid save from Fleetland’s keeper Harry Page, who then calmly gathered a straight effort from Preston Tee’s which lacked power. Cornish then saw a header float over the crossbar and shortly saw another shot narrowly miss the post after beating the outcoming keeper on the edge of the box.
However stoppage time saw Fleetlands almost double their lead as ex-Paulsgrove star Tommy Woodward had a low shot fly through a crowded goalmouth but saw his effort blocked off the line for a corner. Then on a counter attack Robinson collected a long ball and advanced towards goal, but his shot was saved by the legs of Paulsgrove’s Taylor Revy. The half time whistle blew soon after this with Fleetlands ahead following great defensive work, but home pressure showed its toll as Paulsgrove equalised 10 minutes after the restart.
Minutes after Fleetlands had brought on Jamie Wrapson and Glynn Cooper to freshen up the legs, Paulsgrove won a free-kick in a dangerous area. The set piece was curled into a crowded penalty area by left back Jordan Cheung, with the main threat of Cornish rising highest and nodding home at the far post despite the best efforts of visiting defenders. Buoyed by their equaliser Paulsgrove were ahead as Cornish ran onto a loose ball down the channel after a brief lull in proceedings, with no real immediate danger.
But the striker had other ideas and advanced with the ball, bringing the keeper out to shut down the angles. Instead of curling into the corner, Cornish simply lobbed the tall shotstopper of Page as the ball floated into the bottom left. This was a fine goal and excellent improvision from Cornish who was looking for a hat-trick ten minutes later; but his thirty-yarder after brilliant footwork whistled over the crossbar in the final Paulsgrove opportunity with 15 minutes left.
The remaining chances fell to Fleetlands as they tried to maintain their unbeaten league form in 2021-22, but sadly Jake Alford wasted his free kick from a central position; with the effort flying harmlessly over the crossbar and landing beyond everybody behind the goal. On 89 minutes Robinson twisted and turned a defender in the area, but his low shot went inches wide of the post past the despairing dive of the Paulsgrove keeper.
As his side looked arguably nervous and inching for the final whistle, Paulsgrove manager Wayne Grant was booked on the sidelines for some negative comments towards the referee Des McCullough. But he was thanking the official minutes later as the final whistle was blown and confirmed Paulgrove’s second win of the season from three games after beating Locks Heath last weekend.
For the Coptermen they have played three games, beating Colden Common two-nil last weekend just days after their one-all draw versus Locks Heath at Lederle Lane on August 3. Ninth placed Fleetlands will now travel to Test Valley-based Stockbridge on Saturday afternoon (14/08) before two home matches over two weekends with Lyndhurst (21/08) and Liphook United (28/08) as they look to build on their opening games versus title rivals.