SATURDAY afternoon promised so much for Fareham at Cams Alders; a large crowd of 221, cooler weather, excitement before the new season and a tough test against Southern League Premier outfit Salisbury City.
However the Creeksiders struggled against their higher league opponents as they were beaten 8-1 after a clinical and dominant first half performance by City, who killed this pre-season match as a contest by half time and the second period didn’t improve things for Fareham.
Salisbury City, led by former Creeksider Steve Claridge, started well on an excellent surface at Cams; being quicker and patient in possession before taking the lead after eight minutes. A move down the right hand side saw a low cross into the corridor of uncertainty and Harry Baker reacted quicker to slot home into the corner.
Three minutes later it was Jake Ball who nearly doubled the visitor’s lead as he flashed a low shot inches past the post after finding space down the left side; with a gulf of quality between the two sides apparent as the game reached the 20-minute mark.
Despite chasing the ball around for 28 minutes, Fareham had actually threatened the Salisbury back-line on three occasions with great pressing seeing penalty appeals turned down for a ‘foul’ on Josh Benfield and handball just moments later; however the Creeksiders did get themselves level as great running from Benfield beat the offside trip and the dangerman floated a lovely cross over the keeper, which landed perfectly on the head of Luke Slade to nod into the unmarked corner to give Fareham fans something to celebrate.
With scores level Salisbury then blitzed the Creeksiders away with two goals in a matter of minutes; the first coming on 31 minutes when a low cross down the right was blocked and landed perfectly to the feet of midfielder Antonio Dias to convert with other players queueing up behind him to score instead.
From the kick-off Fareham gave the ball away and the visitors pounced, with a shot deemed to be blocked by the hand of Garry Moody for an away penalty on 34 minutes. After some brief appeals, the spot kick was taken by striker Dan Fitchett who sent Fareham goalkeeper Dan Kempton the wrong way.
Three-one became 5-1 in the final minutes of the first half, Fareham sinking in the face of great passing movement and quality finishing from Salisbury. A long ball forward found Dan Fitchett in space and the striker made no mistake with a calm finish after advancing towards goal for 4-1, before another effort from Harry Baker made it five before the break again left unmarked in the final third.
Arguably 5-1 was a bit harsh on Fareham at half-time, but they had been outplayed in the opening 45 and gave up numerous chances to clinical finishers.
Home manager Pete Stiles made a number of changes for the second half including a defensive reshuffling, with Ethan Jones pushed into centre back and a trialist playing at left back.
This did change things slightly as Fareham’s backline stood firm for 10 minutes with some solid defending of crosses; however it wasn’t to last after a brief lull in play as Salisbury made it 6-1 on 67 minutes. Sioni Benham was able to advance down the left and pass inside to Marvin Brooks to side foot accurately home into the corner.
With the game definitely over as a pre-season contest and further fresh legs on the pitch, Fareham began to relax and ventured forward with renewed purpose with Dave Parker firing straight at the Salisbury keeper and the trialist left back causing problems down the wing.
Their best chance came when a free kick was floated into the penalty area and Curt Robbins headed over with an effort that surely would have reduced the five-goal margin if on target; perhaps a final show that luck wasn’t on Fareham’s side when they wanted it. This was apparent when Salisbury were awarded their second penalty of the afternoon for a soft foul, which was converted by Dan Fitchett as the striker confirmed a hat trick; making it seven one in the process.
The goal-scoring carnage was completed on 88 minutes as Salisbury made it 8-1; a lovely switch-ball pass finding Josh Wakefield in space in front of the now-tiring Fareham back-line and squaring to Sioni Benham who tapped into the unguarded goal from seven yards.
The referee then blew on proceedings to end Creeksider misery, not accounting any stoppage time for the goals or traditional pre-season changes off the bench. A chastening afternoon for Fareham who showed good attacking but at times dreadful defending; definitely some things for Pete Stiles with just one pre-season match left before the new season opens on August 3.
AFC Portchester were also in action on Saturday afternoon at the Crest Finance Stadium losing to AFC Totton on an afternoon that saw four penalties; two scored and two missed.
It was a quiet start after confusion over whether the game would go ahead with both teams cancelling each other out for 35 minutes with limited chances. The visitors then opened the scoring after 41 minutes with a penalty, the Royals equalising before the break, recent signing Keiron Roberts heading home a cross from the left as the match sprung into life.
Chances came for both sides in the opening of the second half, in which Portchester were awarded a penalty that was missed by Steve Ramsey on 57 minutes. The home side were punished with two goals for AFC Totton in quick succession, including a penalty on 77 minutes to make it three-one to the Stags.
It should have been 4-1 as they were awarded another spot kick, which was skied over the bar and nearly out of the stadium.
Although Lamin Jatta reduced the arrears late on with a confident finish amidst handbags at the end, it wasn’t enough to gain a draw against higher league opponents as the Royals lost 3-2 on a warm afternoon and great pitch surface. However boss Dave Carter can be proud of his team’s run-out and efforts to keep pushing, even when the game was out of their hands and decisions not going their way.
AFC Portchester will conclude their pre-season campaign with a home clash with Southern League side Lymington on Tuesday evening (27/07) before a weekend off in preparation for their visit to Hamble Club; opening the Wessex League campaign in just nine days (August 3) and a FA Cup tie four days later.
Creekside rivals Fareham will travel to Southampton on July 27 for a clash with Folland Sports; the last preparation before their clash versus Baffins Milton Rovers one week later at Cams Alders.