By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN recorded their first stalemate of this 2022-23 league season as they travelled to Portland United on Saturday afternoon, letting slip a comfortable two goal lead to draw 2-2 after ninety minutes at the Camp & Satherley Stadium. And if that wasn’t frustrating enough for the Creeksiders they were dealt a harsh blow by the referee who turned down a ‘stonewall’ penalty in a decision that arguably changed the course of this encounter, the hosts missing multiple opportunities that would have surely sealed the 3 points in Dorset.
It was the visitors who started better on a lovely pitch surface as they created the opening chance within two minutes from a corner, which was recycled by Ethan Jones only to be headed over from Josh Benfield at the back post. Marcus Smith then fired wide down the other end with a volleyed effort before another huge away opportunity arrived on twelve minutes; Arthur Kerton driving his deep cross into the corridor of uncertainty to narrowly miss the sliding feet of both Charlie Cooper and Morris Dench at the back post in a fairly even start.
But the Creeksiders weren’t rueing the missed chances as they opened the scoring after 23 minutes as Josh Benfield won the ball off Portland’s right back and floated a high cross to the back post, Gary Moody heading home past the goalkeeper into the corner. And this lead was doubled after the half hour as Cooper got away down the right before feeding Benfield who saw his first effort saved by Mike Edgar at his near post, only to easily converted the rebound from six yards out for two-nil as the ball bounced kindly back to his right foot.
Portland weren’t lying down as Lance Wilson drove wide from twenty yards following a slight injury to Calum Benfield that saw him replaced by substitute Dan Aitken, the home side seeing a period of good possession that allowed them to get one back before half time. An effort from distance was brilliantly saved by the away keeper Luke Deacon and sadly fell into the path of Smith who reduced the arrears with a sweeping finish; a goal that changed the game in their favour as they saw a multitude of set pieces and attacks trailing two-one.
The second half started with Portland continuing to push forward, their strikers unlucky not to take advantage of a loss of communication between Deacon and Kerton on fifty-two minutes. In their response Fareham saw Cooper play in Jack Breed to drive over the crossbar and Ethan Fox’s shot was blocked; frustrations building as tackles flew in from both sides. And this almost boiled over when Breed went down inside the area on 59 minutes under a strong tackle, the referee turning down the loud appeals and yellow cards were also shown.
After sixty-six minutes these problems were compounded when the Portland wing-back played a great cross into a crowded area to leave Deacon overreaching, the ball falling to Liam Sayers who tapped home a home equaliser from close range. Substitutions then followed for both sides with Tom Settle replacing Breed amidst a feisty atmosphere as Charlie Cooper was booked after a scuffle on the centre circle; Fareham struggling to gain a control of possession in crucial periods with this encounter entering its last fifteen minutes level at 2-2.
Buoyed forward by a large crowd Portland saw multiple shots blocked and headers going wide of both posts against a stubborn young Fareham defence, who were quickly left depleted when Jones and Casey Greives suffered injuries as a result of tougher home tackles. But the visitors almost won all three points during eight minutes of stoppage time as Fox was played through at an angle but fired wide and Dench’s effort whipped just behind the striker; both teams having to settle for an entertaining draw that was arguably the right result.
Other results mean the Creeksiders have risen to 5th place in the table having played eight games this year with sides around them having games in hand. With their match against Pagham postponed on Tuesday due to their hosts featuring in regional cup action, Fareham’s next encounter will see them entertain in-form outfit Bemerton Heath Harlequins next Saturday afternoon before visiting Hamble away the following weekend. A home cup game against Colden Common separates this big league double header due to be held on 18/10.
PICTURED BY DORSET DOM: Goalkeeper dives to his side but is unable to prevent the ball from hitting the corner, one of four goals scored in weekend Wessex League draw between Fareham and Portland United.