By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN opened their latest FA Vase journey with a comfortable home clash versus Romsey Town on Saturday afternoon, winning five-nil against Wessex League Division One opponents at Cams Alders. All five goals were scored in a simply blistering first half from the Creeksiders as they seemed to learn a lesson from their recent one-nil Hampshire Senior Cup success over the same team, with the second half proving a quieter affair as Graham Rix’s side controlled the game that was arguably finished within 40 minutes of play.
It was a dream start for the hosts as they opened the scoring within the 5th minute coming from neat passing between Charlie Cooper and Connor Underhill to release Josh Benfield, whose driven effort squirmed under away goalkeeper Lewis Dumper low into the net. And this lead was doubled in just fourteen minutes as good play reached Morris Dench via a flicked pass, the youngster’s side-footed curler clipping the posts on its way into the net; Romsey seeing Craig Bryant given an unfortunate yellow card for a soft foul in the centre circle.
Ashley Tattersall burst through the Romsey midfield with pace but saw his shot wide on twenty minutes, with Cooper firing harmlessly over the crossbar and then seeing his curled drive blocked at source seconds later as Fareham sought their third goal. It did arrive on twenty-four minutes as Casey Bartlett-Scott cut inside on the left and fed Ethan Jones with a simple pass across the edge of the box , the midfielder’s 30-yarder hitting the far top corner for an early goal of the season contender past the stranded Dumper between away posts.
Josh Benfield and Dench went close before Fareham added a fourth goal on 35 minutes, the former nipping onto a loose backwards pass and rolling into the empty net from 10 yards past a backtracking Dumper. This score became five-nil just 5 minutes later after Keiron Clark had seen a header against the post with Cooper nutmegging his full back and passed into Calum Benfield; his 1st shot effort bouncing underneath the dive of the Romsey keeper into the bottom corner in the last notable action before the interval with the game sealed.
The visitors had their best spell after half time as Nick Watts and Owen Holloway saw quickfire efforts saved by Fareham goalkeeper Arren Warner, whilst Alex Wilson drove wide as a corner reached him in the penalty area. But the hosts steadily regained a control in possession after Jack Odam was sinbinned for loud dissent and themselves had a series of half chances before the hour; Clark and Cooper heading over the bar whilst Calum Benfield dragged wide from twelve yards following a deft touch by substitute Jacob Wood on the right.
Although the home side did lose some of their momentum after the hour mark they were still threatening as Underhill played an one-two with the overlapping Bartlett-Scott before seeing his low shot saved by Dumper, whilst Cooper sliced wide under pressure on seventy-two minutes following good work down the left wing. A water break, substitutions for both sides and two injury stoppages signalled a lull as the match seemed to be petering to its natural conclusion with around fifteen minutes left to play; humidity taking a toll on both teams.
Credit to Romsey as they never gave up and created the final two notable attempts before the end of ninety minutes, the first coming when Watts burst through and beat young debutant Denny Adams for pace before seeing an effort across goal saved by Warner with his legs. From the corner Harry Prisk curled wide with his cross-come-shot effort that evaded everybody; Fareham sealing a welcomed clean sheet as they controlled the remaining moments of possession around the midfield area with the referee offering limited added time.
The Creeksiders will face a tougher test in the Vase 2nd QR to be played on September 24, where they will travel to Somerset for a clash against Bradford Town. But Fareham do have difficult games in the meantime starting with a trip to Portland United on Tuesday night in the Wessex League Cup before turning to league action as they host Cowes Sports on September 3. Then comes straight away trips against US Portsmouth and Horndean in just three days; Graham Rix hoping to ensure a greater consistency in the coming weeks.
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN FC: Home players celebrate a rocket from Ethan Jones in the first half as they score five goals to seal comfortable victory against Romsey Town on Saturday and advance in FA Vase.