By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN finished a hectic week of fixtures with their second straight defeat and extended their poor form on plastic pitches; falling three-one against a clinical Shaftesbury who avenged a five-one result against the same opponents in mid-week as the hosts ended the Wessex League campaign with a fine home victory.
The hosts started better on the artificial surface and created their first real effort after five minutes when Luke Delaney sliced over from twenty yards out; Ryan Cluett forcing a good stop by Fareham goalkeeper Matthew Fredericks moments later and Joseph Wickham slashing wide from an angle after quick work down the flank.
The pressure finally told as Shaftesbury opened the scoring in the seventeenth minute with a brilliant counter attacking move that split the Fareham defence; a deep pass finding Ash Pope running into space and cutting inside before he easily slotted a low shot past Fredericks into the corner despite a hand from the goalkeeper.
Fareham appeared stunned by the goal and immediately sought to repair this early damage with a series of half chances of their own, which started when Charlie Cooper’s cross was fired wide by Matt Pates. A throw-in from Ethan Jones was nodded over from Cooper after 23 minutes before the winger again smashed wide.
But despite threatening the Creeksiders found themselves trailing two-nil for the half time interval as another cross from the right proved their undoing; reaching Delaney who showed composure in firing home a second goal. And it could have been worse before the break with a corner nodded wide by Pope to end the first half.
Graham Rix made two substitutions and his team responded well upon the restart with attacker Curt Robbins showing neat footwork before seeing a low shot deflected; whilst Keiron Clark’s delivery was headed wide at the front stick and Pates set up Ashley Tattersall for a fiercely hit effort that flew harmlessly past the left post.
Continued perseverance saw these arrears halved after fifty-four minutes as Fareham finally made a chance count; Pates floating a fine cross into the path of Cooper via a slight deflection down the wing. The midfielder calmly collected the ball and sent his looping effort over the Shaftesbury keeper inside the left corner for 2-1.
The away attackers pushed for their equaliser after the hour mark with Brandon Jewel nodding straight at the home keeper before Pates fired wide of the post under pressure; Shaftesbury capitalising on extra spaces as they killed the game at three-one as Delaney finished a slick passing move with eighteen minutes left to play.
Proceedings seemed to drift after this killer finish with Shaftesbury content on keeping possession away from the visitors who now didn’t look threatening in attack and lost many midfield battles. They did see an opening when Robbins shot wide on eighty-three minutes but it was simply too late to respond as they fell to a defeat.
Other results mean that Fareham cannot finish any higher than eighth in the final standings with just a single match left; which will see them host Blackfield & Langley on Monday evening at Cams Alders. They will then have eight days off before hosting local team Fleetlands in the Portsmouth Senior Cup semi finals on May 2.
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN: Shaftesbury attack a good cross in the air as they clinically dispatch their opponents on Saturday afternoon, winning three-one to end their average league campaign with all 3 points.