Fareham exit FA Cup after Alresford loss

By Connor Steel / Photograph by Paul Proctor

WEMBLEY dreams were shattered for Fareham Town as they lost one-nil to fellow Wessex League opponents Alresford Town, meaning the Creeksiders exited the FA Cup at the Preliminary Round.

It took a first half opener from home striker Louis Russell to seal the victory which sees the Magpies continue their fine start to the 2021-22 campaign. But the winning margin could have been better as the home side hit the woodwork on numerous occasions in an entertaining cup tie.

It was an even opening as Alresford’s youngsters showed plenty of energy in closing down Fareham defenders, with the away side showing this strength down the other end as both sides seemed to cancel each other out in the first 10 minutes. The home side did create the first opportunity of the match as a corner was headed goalwards, but the effort was brilliantly diverted to safety by Dan Kempson in the Creeksiders’ net.

The 20th minute came before Fareham had their first real opening as Josh Benfield won the ball in midfield and played in Gary Austin twenty yards from goal, with the striker’s effort curling wide of the far post. Despite this opportunity the away side were riding their luck and gave their opponents too much space on the attack whilst giving the ball away at regular intervals, which was punished after 23 minutes.

Fareham put together a nice spell of possession before a sloppy pass left Alresford’s Sutchasu Shepherd with space to run into down the right, which the youngster did and played in Louis Russell eight yards out. Although the striker’s first effort was blocked by the feet of Kempson, the rebound was calmly slotted into the corner to give Alresford the lead.

Taking the lead acted as a confidence booster for the home side, which combined with general all round poor Fareham play for the rest of the first half. The Creeksiders had barely any possession and were definitely under the cosh, perhaps lucky that Alresford didn’t have their scoring boots on. Both Aimee Fotso and George Winser went close, before a shot came off the inside post; bouncing to safety as Fareham somehow survived the pressure with fans relieved the scoreline wasn’t any worse than 1-0 at the break.

The Creeksiders made a tactical change at the break by switching to five at the back, which helped in the early stages as the visitors had their best chance to equalise on 48 minutes. A ball into the box was deflected into the path of Simon Woods who smashed a shot into the side netting from an angle, before a corner saw Josh Benfield hit the crossbar with a header as the game. The referee also had an interesting five minutes as he booked the wrong player and gave a free-kick to the wrong side as the game ticked towards the hour mark, with substitutes made for both sides.

Alresford Town should have doubled their lead on 63 minutes as a long ball found Russell through on goal and with just the keeper to beat. Luckily for Fareham, he lacked composure as he sent his shot harmlessly behind the stand at Arlebury Park when well placed. Another counter attack saw another home move smashing off the underside of the woodwork as Fareham continued to ride their luck.

But the Creeksiders were still creating chances as Kai Sterne saw his rising effort hit the crossbar and Josh Benfield hit a shot straight at home keeper. There was also confusion as Town thought they had equalised on 71 minutes when a header looked to cross the line before being hacked to safety, but the linesman and referee turned down the loud appeals. With 15 minutes left Dave Parker fired wide of the post after brilliant build-up play by Josh Benfield; which turned out to be the final Fareham chance to equalise.

Just like any other team in their situation and with cup joy looming, Alresford infuriated the Creeksiders by deploying game management tactics to waste time; two injuries and many breaks in play adding five minutes of stoppage time. However despite a succession of corners and long balls into the penalty area, Fareham were unable to force an equaliser and exit England’s most famous cup one stage further than 2020-21; not that this will make the defeat any easier to digest.

For Alresford it was another clean sheet this campaign and sees them through to the 1st Qualifying Round with their opponents yet to be decided pending Monday’s draw. But for Fareham they will turn to league action after a disappointing start with two draws and a defeat; Cams Alders will play host to Hythe & Dibden next Saturday (August 28) as the Creeksiders look to bounce back. They are also due to play Blackfield & Langley on September 4, but this match will depend on who progresses in the FA Cup replay against Portchester this Tuesday night.