FAREHAM TOWN FC bounced back to winning ways after a difficult run of away games that has yielded two straight league defeats, returning to Cams Alders with a 4-3 victory over Bournemouth Poppies in a thrilling Wessex Premier encounter on Saturday afternoon.
But despite seven goals and brilliant attacking play from both sides, the 90 minutes will perhaps be remembered best for a match-winning performance by Dan Bennett, the striker not only scoring but also showing his goalkeeping skills following a first half injury to Dan Kempson.
On an immaculate looking pitch surface the Creeksiders started well and took an early lead after just three minutes, the ball worked into the right hand side to Dan Bennett. The attacker’s cross was inch perfect and landed onto the head of Bailey Newbury, who caressed his nodded effort into the corner past a static Harry Gravett in the Bournemouth goal to score his first ever Fareham goal. Midfielder Ben Rowthorne then fired over the bar on eight minutes as the hosts continued their fine start to the afternoon in front of 228 fans.
But despite most of the possession their next chance didn’t come until 20 minutes as they struggled to break through a stubborn visiting defence, although their passing out from the back was at times sublime to watch. A jinxing run forward by Simon Woods was ended by a foul, with the free kick played into the path of Archie Wilcox on the far post; but like everybody in the crowded penalty area the home defender missed the ball as it bounced away to safety. Half opportunities then came as Callum Benfield and Newbury went close for the hosts before the game dramatically changed after 29 minutes.
Just 60 seconds after Marcus Cullen had fired over the bar, a long ball forward seemed to catch out the Fareham defence which saw Kempson in a race for the loose pass against the pacey striker. Unfortunately the Fareham goalkeeper came off worse in fouling the Poppies’ player and injured his shoulder, meaning a prolonged stoppage that looked to affect concentration. When play restarted the resulting free kick from Matt Sheet was fired through a huge hole in the defending wall, nestling in the bottom corner allowing Bournemouth to equalise. It was then 2-1 to the visitors on 38 minutes as another ball forward found Conor Jevon down the wing, with the striker advancing past Garry Moody before placing past a seriously-struggling home goalkeeper.
But to their credit Fareham didn’t settle for this half-time scoreline, pushing for an equaliser that many agreed was well deserved for the hosts given their first half performance. This came after an overhead effort by Bennett was brilliantly saved by Gravett on 43 minutes, with the striker not to be denied for a second time as he broke through and fired under the Bournemouth keeper into the near post in stoppage time. This was the final notable action before the interval. The goalkeeper was replaced by Kai Sterne up front, with Dan Bennett taking the gloves and jersey for the rest of the half.
Without a recognised shot-stopper between the sticks, it was expected that Bournemouth would come out firing in the second half and attempt to exploit this slight advantage in defence. Instead it was Fareham who continued to push for a third goal as Rowthorne’s corner found Wilcox to head over and Benfield flicked an effort into the side netting from a throw in down the right by Ethan Jones. This persistence paid off on 54 minutes when the Creeksiders retook the lead as one-touch passing saw Sterne collect the ball in space down the right side. The substitute attacker found Curt Robbins advancing inside the box and made no mistake with his cross, allowing his teammate to easily convert into the net.
After a lull in proceedings due to substitutes from both sides, Fareham reasserted their dominance as Mackenzie Hill advanced forward and set up Newbury to fire over the crossbar. On sixty three minutes a free kick was converted by Simon Woods at the near post, but the goal was disallowed by the referee for a foul by Wilcox on a Bournemouth defender. Moments a throw-in was almost flicked home at close range from the ever-dangerous Fareham defender, who also forced the away keeper into a good save after a free-kick was perfectly placed into the penalty area.
The Creeksiders finally got their inevitable fourth goal on 70 minutes when another set piece was floated inside the box and caused chaos within the Poppies’ defence. With away defenders looking for somebody else to clear, the ball fell kindly to Simon Woods who calmly collected and fired home under the goalkeeper who stood no-chance of saving the effort. On 74 minutes the striker went close with an effort that hit the crossbar whilst Benfield saw a powerful effort blocked at source by a Bournemouth player, whose teammates began to lose their discipline with some silly fouls.
Ironically it was from a free-kick that Bournemouth reduced the arrears with just seven minutes left to play; the delivery was inch-perfect and reached the head of Conor Jevon who headed home his 2nd goal of the afternoon and caused a minor spell of panic amongst the home supporters. Straight from the restart the visitors came flying forward as Lewis Chamber’s effort was saved by the stand-in home goalkeeper while Jevon went close to a hat-trick with a low shot that flashed past the post. Down the other end Robbins hit a screamer that was brilliantly saved by Gravett as Fareham looked confident in holding on, which they did after four minutes of stoppage time in sunny conditions.
Fareham’s latest win maintains their sixth placed position in the Wessex Premier, with their next league encounter not scheduled for ten days as they travel across the water to Isle of Wight based Cowes Sports on 26/10 with a 7.45pm kick off at Westwood Park. Before that attention will turn to two home cup games in a week for different competitions, starting with a Wessex League Cup tie against Horndean on Tuesday night. The Creeksiders will then host Jersey Bulls next Saturday in the FA Vase 1st round proper, with this encounter kicking off at 2pm due to the opponent’s travel plans. Bournemouth Poppies will travel to Alresford Town for their league encounter on Tuesday night in a tough match, in which they may hope to move up the table with three points.