By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN FC made a brilliant late comeback as they gained a point away versus Alton FC, drawing three-all in the Meon Valley. Goals from Ethan Jones, Ross Kidson and Gary Austin sealed the turnaround with the Creeksiders being three-one down on the hour following a poor first half, struggling to adapt to the worn and hard plastic pitch surface at the Anstey Park Enclosure.
The visitors did start well on a dry afternoon as they dominated possession on a quick passing pitch and created their first opening after 10 minutes; Josh Benfield taking advantage of a defensive error before racing through, seeing his angled shot bounce off the post. In response Rob Carr fired over on Alton’s first attack, before George Bowerman dragged an effort wide under huge pressure.
On fifteen minutes Fareham took the lead as Tom Settle’s corner was flicked sideways at the far post by Benfield, finding Jones in space right in the centre of the penalty area and the midfielder made no mistake in firing home past Ed Lang at his far post. Another set piece minutes later saw another shot by Charlie Cooper that drifted over the crossbar following a deflection that fell into his path.
Alton equalised on twenty-one minutes when a long ball was met by an attacker who was fouled by Gary Moody, with the referee blowing for a harsh penalty. Up stepped Oli Graham and the striker’s effort hit the bottom right corner despite the best efforts of away keeper Henry Woodcock going the correct way to get a hand to the ball; this leveller switching the momentum in favour of the hosts.
And despite an injury to Bowerman as he was replaced by Karol Skoczen before a spell of good away possession, with the striker making an immediate impact on 31 minutes as he was played through to slot home underneath Woodcock for a second goal. This soon became three-one in the last action of the first half, another long ball reaching Carr who beat the keeper and slotted home a simple finish.
Fareham came out firing after the break and should have scored within seconds, a floated cross into the danger area being headed wide by the advancing Dan Bennett; the midfielder also missing when a pass found him free on goal before shooting wide of the far post. On 52 minutes good interplay in the Alton penalty area found Benfield in space, but under pressure he scuffed his shot over the bar.
But after Alton had missed a gift-edged chance through Carr, the Creeksiders pulled a goal back just before the hour mark. It came from another corner from Settle whose delivery found Kidson to put a firm header into the net to make it 3-2, whilst Benfield and Cooper went close to the equaliser as the away side looked the better. However they were nearly caught out when Alton’s Graham fired wide.
Substitutions for both sides with twenty minutes left saw a spell of little attacking action, although a chance for Bennett came and went for the unlucky attacker who deserved a goal for his efforts. But Alton were looking dangerous on the counter attack with Sckoczen being denied by Woodcock and a rising effort by Jamie Phillips went over the bar, with the hosts reverting to game management skills.
But the hosts were punished as they attempted to pass around the back in a bid to waste time, away players forcing a mistake to win the ball back in stoppage time. Good passing saw the ball break to a lurking Austin, who sent a first time shot into the top corner to send the noisy away fans into cheers behind the goal and seal a fine comeback; getting the reward for their part in this entertaining clash.
Fareham remain twelfth after two successive draws away from Cams Alders, with just nine wins so far in the league from twenty-five games. They will now travel to Baffins Milton Rovers at the PMC Stadium on Wednesday in a re-arranged derby fixture, before playing eleventh place Blackfield & Langley in a mid-table battle at Cams Alders on Saturday and hosting rivals Horndean on February 1.
PICTURED BY ALTON FC MEDIA: Fareham defenders stand firm to deny an inviting cross into their area