By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN registered their fifth straight victory in all competitions as they travelled to United Services Portsmouth (USP) on Wednesday evening, beating their postcode rivals three-nil in soaking and thunder-hit conditions at Burnaby Road. Clinical finishes from Calum Benfield and Connor Underhill sandwiched an own goal in the second half to seal all three points for the dominant Creeksiders, who continued their brilliant start to the campaign with another comfortable league victory and welcomed clean sheet away from Cams Alders.
Wearing their all-yellow strip Fareham started the better despite the conditions and longer grass than normal, creating their first chance after four minutes when Calum Benfield’s shot had to be pushed away by the USP goalkeeper Charlie Shepard at his near post for a corner that sadly came to nothing. In quick response USP saw their opening chance on seven minutes as a long ball forward was only half cleared by the away keeper Luke Deacon in tough conditions, striker Brandon Jewell missing an open goal shot albeit from 35 yards out.
Fareham opened the scoring on fourteen minutes as Ethan Jones’ throw-in was nodded kindly into the path of Calum Benfield via a flick on; the away attacker controlling the wet ball off his chest and striking a sweetly struck volley into the bottom left corner through a crowd of players. Jones then went close with a driven effort minutes later, whilst Arthur Kerton fired wide from a tight angle following incisive passing down the right wing and Charlie Cooper’s free kick caught the wind before curling just wide of the far post from twenty-five yards.
Away dominance continued after the half hour as Morris Dench and Underhill went close, but they still looked vulnerable at the back as wind swirled as the defenders had to backtrack on many occasions to correct their mis-kicked clearances. USP nearly took full advantage of this as they won a series of corners with one highly dangerous set piece found Tyler Burns at the back post, the defender driving his rising shot harmlessly over the goal from close range in the last notable chance before the half time interval with Fareham winning 1-0.
This away advantage was doubled within just sixty seconds of the second half when Jones advanced down the right and swung in a cross into the corridor of uncertainty, home defender Ash Thompson heading back into his own goal from seven yards out under no pressure from Fareham attackers. But USP did not let this moment affect them and created two good chances as Jewell headed wide on 53 minutes; an ex-Creeksider Simon Woods firing wide from an angle on the hour mark after being found in space inside the 18-yard box.
USP had a penalty appeal turned down on 65 minutes before substitutions for both outfits signalled a slight lull in proceedings, the home side getting more frustrated as a free kick wasn’t given for a late shove in the air. This boiled over when Jewell kicked out at Fareham’s Garry Moody and the defender snapped; leading to a long scuffle between all twenty-two players and coaching staff. Once calmed down Jewell and Moody were both shown straight red cards by the referee, alongside warnings for many involved in confrontations.
With teams reduced to ten men apiece Fareham sought to kill the game off in the last 15 minutes, chances coming from both Jones who smashed the crossbar and Dan Bennett dragging a shot wide under pressure. But it didn’t matter as they did add their 3rd goal on eighty-one minutes, Casey Bartlett-Scott creating good space and feeding Underhill who made no mistake in slotting home finding the bottom right corner. But the win was marred as an injury to Cooper forced him off, taking the shine off an otherwise outstanding evening.
The three points lift Graham Rix’s team up to third in the Wessex League Premier with three wins from four, sitting behind AFC Portchester and Bemerton Heath Harlequins in the table. Fareham will look to extend the run to six games on Saturday when they travel to Horndean at 3pm. before making a short trip to Winchester City on Tuesday night in the Hampshire Senior Cup. Two home league matches follow against Bournemouth Poppies and Alresford Town then follow in a three day period before a FA Vase game versus Bradford Town.
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN FC: Away midfielder advances quickly towards goal with home defender backtracking as the Creeksiders win three-nil in difficult wet Portsmouth conditions last night (Wednesday).