By Connor Steel
JUST months after Liverpool lifted the trophy at Wembley the FA Cup returned to many non-league stadiums nationwide this weekend for the Extra Preliminary round stage of the famous competition, with both Fareham Town and AFC Portchester in action across the south coast on a humid Saturday afternoon. And there were victories for the Wessex League sides either side of the creek to progress into the Preliminary round, which will take place in just two weeks time over the weekend starting August 20 after league games in-between.
Fareham 3-1 Hythe & Dibden
Fareham started well against their Wessex League Division One opponents with half chances for both Josh Benfield and Garry Moody in quick succession, with even a painful injury to Calum Benfield and an enforced substitution not enough to disrupt their forward momentum. And the Creeksiders were rewarded after twenty-four minutes with Josh Benfield finding space in an one-on-one situation, cutting the ball back to the left foot of Connor Underhill to fire home underneath the legs of ex-Gosport goalkeeper Ellis Grant at his right post.
Further home opportunities were created through Charlie Cooper and Jack Breed before a fast away player was tripped inside the penalty area on a counter attack, the referee giving a penalty that was easily put away by Fillipos Terzadis sending home keeper Jon Webb the wrong way from the spot. And although Underhill did go close with a curling effort the Creeksiders were lucky to enter half time level at one-apiece following a series of good attacks from a young visiting side with nothing to lose from this intriguing Extra Preliminary tie.
Pete Stiles must have said something at half time as Fareham came out firing, retaking their early advantage through Underhill within approximately ninety seconds; the winger hitting a powerful effort into the top corner from twenty-five yards in an early contender for goal of the season leaving Grant with absolutely no chance of saving. The hosts continued to push for a third with opportunities from Benfield and Cooper again, whilst substitutions signalled a slight lull either side of the hour with Hythe looking to stay in touch in the final 30.
But in the 65th minute Fareham added their third and final goal of the afternoon starting with good passing across the backline, which found its way down the other end for a corner taken by Tom Settle. The delivery was inch perfect and was a fine team move as defenders were drawn out of position, allowing Moody to rise highest and head home inside the far post to seal a 3-1 lead. And this was how it stayed as the game drifted to it’s natural conclusion with Hythe tiring towards the end, Fareham sealing their second successive victory.
Corsham Town 0-2 AFC Portchester
Portchester made an outstanding start in Wiltshire as they took the lead after just sixty-three seconds of play, Ashton Leigh playing the ball into Brett Pitman. The striker turned his marker and fired a low shot that was brilliantly saved by Corsham goalkeeper Rob Brown, only for the ball to fall into the path of Felipe Barcelos who fired home the rebound. And in energy-absorbing heat the away side nearly made it two-nil after just 11 minutes as Liam Robinson found Barcelos in the box, the striker heading wide of the post from just six yards.
Decent opportunities for Pitman, Curtis Da Costa, and James Cowan nearly added to the scoreline before the half hour as Portchester looked to double their advantage, but the last ten minutes of an enjoyable first half see Corsham create a couple of chances to level before the interval. Both openings came from Matty Morris who first saw a flicked header gathered comfortably by away keeper Steven Mowthorpe, whilst the same striker cut inside well but saw his effort fly harmlessly wide in stoppage time; the score remaining 1-0.
The Royals continued their large dominance of possession after the restart and saw Pitman twice go close with varying efforts on goal; Corsham struggling to muster any threats as they simply absorbed the pressure. Portchester created their next chances after 59 minutes as Barcelos ran down the left side and pulled a pass back into the path of Cowan who saw his angled shot blocked at source; the resulting corner finding Leigh whose shot from 25 yards lacked the power to trouble Brown through a crowd of bodies in the penalty area.
Substitutions for both sides meant a lull that was ended in the 76th minute with the next opportunity, a brilliant clearance finding Barcelos through on goal as he held off his marker; the striker denied by a great low Brown stop. But the Brazilian did seal the win by adding a second goal with nine left to play; tapping home a Pitman shot that was otherwise going wide. And two-nil was the result despite a chance for Corsham as Brandon Mundy’s header was cleared off the goal-line to protect an away clean sheet after 3 minutes of added time.
Following the two victories both teams face trips to Southampton for the next round, with Fareham drawn to play Blackfield & Langley at Gang Warily. Meanwhile Portchester will play Sholing away from home, with the Boatmen adding this game may be played on August 19 instead of the traditional Saturday afternoon kick-off. But attentions should now focus to games over the next seven days with Fareham due to play Romsey and Brockenhurst away, whilst Portchester will themselves play Blackfield & Langley away next Saturday.
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN FC: Joy for two local sides in FA Cup with Creekside rivals progressing.