Cowes beat Royals in IOW encounter

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER continued their dreadful run of results as they fell 2-1 to Cowes Sport away on the Isle of Wight.

This disappointing performance puts further pressure on manager Dave Carter less than a year after taking over. It is now three successive defeats for the Royals despite some chances against determined opposition at Westwood Park, meaning they were leapfrogged by the Yachtsmen and now sit 16th in the table with any Southern League promotion push on critical life support.

After a period of silence for Remembrance Day, play got under way in dry and overcast conditions as Portchester created the first chance in the first minute, winger Joe Briggs breaking through and seeing his low-angled shot saved by Cowes goalkeeper Ed Hatt at his near post. Moments later, Lee Wort saw a similar move end with the same result as the visitors made a good start. But it wasn’t all one- way traffic as Jimmy Munford set up dangerman Ji Nash whose effort sailed over the crossbar before a spell of possession saw Jez Conway’s shot gathered by Royals’ keeper Steven Mowthorpe in an even opening 10 minutes of football.

However, after an attacking start the game condensed into a midfield battle with both sides cancelling each other for a lengthy period which passed without notable action despite Conway firing wide under pressure and Marly Ridge’s drive flying over the bar just before the half hour mark. But luckily for the 133 supporters in the stadium, proceedings bounced back into life as Cowes won a penalty when Nash broke into the box with pace and was fouled by Adam Tomasso. The decision was given by referee Justyn Leonard without any hesitation or many appeals. Connor Furmidge stepped up and calmly sent the Portchester keeper the wrong way, rolling the ball into the oppositive corner to give the hosts a 37th minute lead.

To their credit, Portchester responded brilliantly to going behind as Ridge fired only inches wide of the far post after being found through the middle and Clayd Roach missed his shot when well placed. Undeterred, the Royals equalised on 40 minutes when Wort was played through on goal and made no mistake in placing his effort beyond Hatt’s dive to his right. But just before the break all this hard work was undone by a freak own-goal that came out of nothing as Cowes retook the lead. Sam Pearce saw his back-pass from the right wrongfoot the away keeper and rolling into the net in slow motion, the referee blowing for the interval shortly afterwards.

Cowes started the second half in confident style following this early ‘Christmas gift’, a strong challenge by Max Coshell allowing the defender to advance forward and find Nash with a fine pass that split the defence. The striker beat the outrushing keeper but saw his touch take the ball away and couldn’t convert from a tight angle on 49 minutes. Goalscorer Connor Furmidge then had a yellow for a foul as he tried to stop a Portchester attack and was quickly substituted for Jon McKie on the 56-minute mark, Wort heading over the resulting free kick from seven yards out.

Substitutions for Portchester saw them dominate possession for a spell but they were unable to convert this pressure into chances as they were guilty of overplaying and slow attacks, allowing Cowes to organise their back-line and defend with ease. Instead, it was the hosts who looked the more threatening as McKie tried to seal the win, his low shot gathered at the second attempt by Mowthorpe on 68 minutes. Mumford then nearly pulled off an over-head finish as he connected with a left wing cross, but his effort dipped too late and landed on the netting with home fans behind the goal seemingly preparing to celebrate.  With the game reaching the 75th minute mark, Finley Phillips’ drive hit the advertising boards before a second effort was blocked at source, having replaced hard working Scott McFarlane 10 minutes earlier in centre midfield.

From this point the home tactics changed as they began to sit back, allowing Portchester to push for an equaliser – a risky move following two points dropped at home to Fareham 11 days earlier. The Royals nearly did equalise on 78 minutes as the ball broke to an attacker who fired towards goal, but Hatt denied him with a brilliant one-handed save from close range before blocking the rebound from Wort as an unguarded goal was closed down for the away attacker. Several moments later Ridge saw his curling effort from range pushed away to safety, but this was the last chance of the game as Cowes held on for the three points, managing five minutes of stoppage time with a late substitute and two bookings for home players as they frustrated the visitors in their third straight away defeat in the league.

Mid-table Portchester will be hoping that results quickly improve in the next two weeks with some tough games ahead. They will host Knowle-based Infinity in the cup on Tuesday night after the original game was cancelled in October due to issues with floodlights at the On-Site Group Stadium, before playing Amesbury Town in a Remembrance Weekend encounter next Saturday afternoon. Another away clash at local rivals Moneyfields will then be played seven days later, with Royals boss Carter and several players hoping to avenge the FA Vase defeat back in September to their former clubs. The Yachtsmen, in 12th place, will travel to Southampton to play Blackfield & Langley in the league hoping to continue a good run of form either side of a 9-0 defeat to Horndean last weekend.

PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: A corner from Portchester is delivered into the Cowes area