By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN’S winless streak was extended to four league matches as they travelled to Dorset on Saturday afternoon, losing four-nil against high flying Shaftesbury away at Cockrams as the hosts sealed a double over the Creeksiders. But in truth Fareham were disappointing and were simply out-played on an artificial plastic pitch by their hosts, although they were not helped by player absentees and red card shown to keeper Henry Woodcock alongside questionable referring in chilly conditions.
Shaftesbury started the better under overcast skies and created their first chance after six minutes; a long ball bouncing over two Fareham defenders to find Luke Burbidge through on goal with just the slipping Woodcock to beat, but the keeper recovered and smothered the striker’s efforts at his feet. Down the other end Fareham created their maiden opening of the afternoon as Gary Austin picked a pass to Curt Robbins who fired over the bar; but it wouldn’t have counted as an offside flag was up.
On twenty minutes Shaftesbury scored their opening goal following a mistake from Archie Wilcox as he was guilty of dwelling on the ball; which allowed the quick-thinking Burbidge to step in and round Woodcock to calmly finish into the unguarded net. And following an enforced injury substitution for Keiran Clark, it was two-nil as Shaftesbury doubled their lead just two minutes later; winning a free-kick that was whipped into the box by Louis Moore and evaded everyone before nestling in the net.
Casey Bartlett-Scott and Jack Breed then saw ambitious efforts wide either side of the half hour, but hopes of a Fareham comeback were quickly hit as Shaftesbury tripled their lead in the 35th minute. It started with another long ball over the defence to find Ben Satts who was fouled by the away keeper as he tried to shoot. Woodcock was booked for the late tackle and the misery was compounded with the penalty; the striker converting easily with a calm finish in the last notable action of the first half.
The Creeksiders came out firing after the interval and should have scored on 49 minutes as Charlie Cooper knocked the ball to Austin through on goal; the striker firing straight at Shaftesbury keeper Greg Turner with perhaps more time than he thought. Fareham were undeterred however and saw a series of chances before the hour mark as substitute Josh Benfield shot wide and Robbins made the away keeper tip his drive over the bar; whilst Wilcox headed over from the resulting corner delivery.
On sixty-five minutes another chance came for Fareham as Bartlett-Scott’s cross caused chaos with a goalmouth scramble that saw multiple shots blocked by the defenders before cleared away to safety by Jordan Foot. This scare seemed to spark Shaftesbury into life as they controlled the midfield areas and despite a better Fareham display in the second half, the visitors were reduced to ten men as the goalkeeper committed a lighter foul outside of the area and was shown a harsh second yellow card.
This meant Robbins was forced to take the goalkeeping gloves for the final 18 minutes; which were mostly dominated by Shaftesbury as Aiden Shepard was denied twice after being found in space and another chance for Burbidge fired wide on 86 minutes following a fine team move. The pressure did finally get a reward on 87 minutes as a pass found Ash Pope who slotted home from an acute angle to make it four-nil to the hosts; proving to be the final action as the match petered towards conclusion.
Shaftesbury have now risen to third place following this huge victory, which adds to their five-nil win over Fareham at Cams Alders earlier this campaign and continues their late charge into promotion contention. The Creeksiders meanwhile sit thirteenth in the table with just nine games left to play in the 2021-22 campaign, starting with twelfth place Hamble Club on Tuesday night. Pete Stiles’ team will also host Alresford Town next Saturday afternoon with points needed on the board for the top half race.
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN MEDIA: Away defenders watch the potential cross from the wing, but struggle to contain Shaftesbury attackers as they comfortably won four-nil at Cockrams on Saturday.