By Connor Steel
AFC STONEHAM continued their perfect 100% home record and maintained the gap over nearest promotion challengers Horndean on Saturday afternoon with a fantastic victory over Fareham Town, beating the visitors three-nil in a muted encounter at their Football Complex Stadium. It was yet another huge defeat for Graham Rix’s team as they struggled to adapt on the atypical artificial surface through the 90 minutes; the home team taking full advantage of a soft sin-bin with quickfire goals as the Creeksiders fell to a second loss this annum.
Under overcast skies it was Fareham who started the brighter and did create the first notable opening after 8 minutes; a cute inside pass finding Jack Breed whose low drive skidded marginally wide of the far posts from twenty yards. Charlie Cooper then went close on eleven minutes as he drove at the Stoneham defenders but pulled his effort harmlessly wide of danger under pressure, the away supporters further seething as they saw a penalty appeal denied after fifteen minutes when Cade Dyer arguably denied a driven effort with his hands.
But despite this perceived dominance in terms of the chances, the Creeksiders were often guilty of overhit or under-hit passes in great attacking positions; which allowed Stoneham to slowly regain control of possession and they created their first opportunity after twenty-four minutes. It came from great incisive passing between Lewis Nagle and captain Jim Orvis down the right wing with the latter feeding Scott Mills; the winger slashing over the bar from an angle before Yumo Wan’s looped header crashed the cross bar as the half hour arrived.
The hosts continued to push forward and received a boost after thirty-four minutes from an unlikely source; a brilliantly worked corner reaching Matt Bainbridge on the edge of the box and he made simply no mistakes in slotting home past Fareham goalkeeper Luke Deacon for one-nil. And the arrears may have doubled just two minutes later when Stoneham were awarded two free-kicks that were smartly defended; the visitors surviving until the half time interval with relative calmness despite multiple dangerous whipped crosses from the flank.
The second half started in a measured fashion with both teams settling into a long midfield battle that neither wanted to lose; an opening arriving for Fareham on fifty-three minutes when Curt Robbins slashed over from Cooper’s cut-back. It proved to be a missed opportunity rued before the hour as 2 defensive mistakes ended in Duarte Martins being fouled whilst rounding Deacon and the officials showed little hesitation in awarding a penalty for Stoneham; Hills sending the away keeper in his opposite direction for 2-0 and a space to breathe.
Away substitutions followed the decisive second goal and they were temporally reduced to 10 men as Ronan Galloway was too aggressive in his protests; earning himself on the sin-bin bench for a short period whilst he calmed down. And the hosts made this small numerical advantage count on seventy-four minutes when they made it three-nil with an easily executed goal; Jake Thomson breaking down the left and playing a neat pass that was quickly met by the unmarked Martins who slashed home inside the bottom corner with simple ease.
Fareham made another triple change with this game deemed over and a busy February calendar ahead with no immediate impacts made; the home side absorbing the possession as they looked to protect the potential clean sheet with Casey Bartlett-Scott proving the likelier to break this mission with a late effort. Stoneham did create two late chances to add a fourth goal in stoppage time as Jamie Ovington rattled the far posts with his angled effort before Martins flicked just over from close range; the ‘Purps’ forced to settle for a 3-0 score-line.
The three points ensure Stoneham maintain their 10-point gap between Portchester and them in the Wessex Premier after twenty-three matches played; Fareham in contrast remaining eleventh having played two fewer ties due to bad weather over recent weeks. But they will hope to confirm multiple points from the upcoming 3 games starting with bottom team Alresford on Tuesday night before travelling to Hythe & Dibden on Saturday afternoon in a mid-table battle; returning to Cams Alders on February 18 for a big clash against Christchurch.
PICTURED BY GLYN HISCOCK: Away attacker strikes towards goal on artificial 3G surface as a Stoneham player closes the angle; the home side using defence as key platform in their comfortable 3-1 league victory.