By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN FC scored a dramatic late equaliser and sealed their fine comeback against Poole-based Hamworthy United, getting a three-all draw against the Hammers at Cams Alders. In a thrilling Wessex League encounter on Saturday the Creeksiders were trailing 3-1 against their high flying rival in front of over three hundred spectators before two goals saw them seal a well-deserved point; Pete Stiles’ side now three games unbeaten in all competitions following a disappointing run of form throughout late October and November.
In overcast conditions Hamworthy started the better side and nearly scored within three minutes as a pass found Jack Lovell, whose shot was gathered easily by Fareham goalkeeper Luke Douglas at his near post. But the Creeksiders didn’t heed this warning as Edward Hodge seized upon a long ball and was tripped down the right inside the box, the referee pointing to the penalty spot. Up stepped Max Wilcox and the striker made little mistake with the opportunity; easily converting into the right hand corner to give the visitors an early lead.
Although away captain Lee Francis came close with a curling effort on 13 minutes, Fareham did work their way into the game through some good possession in midfield; which gave them the impetus to attack and create their first opportunity as Gary Austin saw his low shot blocked for a corner after 17 minutes. From this set piece the equaliser arrived for the Creeksiders, an in-swinging cross met by an ever-rising Archie Wilcox who nodded home past a stranded away goalkeeper Shane Murphy. In the 25th minute it should have been two one for Fareham when Casey Bartlett-Scott’s low delivery found the feet of Josh Benfield, but the striker fired wide.
Hamworthy seemed to switch into gear again on the half hour, with Cameron Munn firing over from twelve yards after being found in space; whilst Tony Rolls flashed an event wide of the post when a range of other options were available inside a crowded penalty area. A series of corners were easily dealt with by the Fareham backline as the visitors slowly built up the pressure; reaping rewards with a second goal on 41 minutes. Mumm found himself unmarked inside the box and sent his low driven shot into the corner past a diving home goalkeeper.
Fareham started better after the interval and won a penalty after 48 minutes as Kai Sterne ran inside the penalty area before being fouled, the linesman sowing no hesitation. But although midfield pivot Ben Rowthorn sent Murphy the wrong way, his spot kick was too high resulting in the effort hitting a rattling crossbar before bouncing to safety. Tom Settle then saw his free kick met by Ethan Jones in a crowded effort with a hooked shot going wide, whilst Connor Cocklin fired wide down the other end after a mazy run forward on the hour mark of play.
Fourth placed Hamworthy then saw two further chances following changes for both sides; Munn and Wilcox seeing efforts saved by home shot-stopper Luke Douglas in quick succession. But this visiting pressure finally told after 70 minutes with a seemingly decisive third goal after good link-up passing set Drew Eccott-Young away, beating the defender and calmly slotting home past the keeper. It was nearly 4-1 sixty seconds later as a cross was deflected out for a corner, with Christopher Clarke rising highest to nod over unbalanced from close range.
But Fareham didn’t give up and won a corner on 75 minutes; Charlie Cooper’s delivery was met by a Wilcox header into the top corner to reduce the arrears, the tall defender getting his second goal of the afternoon to give Town hope. And despite minor scares from Munn and Lovell in the final seven minutes who both fired wide, the Creeksiders equalised when Benfield lashed home with their 88th minute equaliser to send home fans into raptures. Stoppage time saw a flurry of Hamworthy balls in the box that were cleared by great defending, with Fareham holding onto a hard-fought point.
Pete Stiles will be delighted with this result and the spirit of Fareham’s comeback, particularly as the strong and organised visitors have only lost once from twenty games this campaign as they continue their promotion push. For the Creeksiders they now have a ten day break over Christmas before they play Baffins Milton Rovers away at the PMC Stadium on December 28 (7:30pm kick off), before a big local derby versus Portchester at Cams Alders the following Monday; a fine end to a festive period of PO postcode clashes that could decide the 2021/22 campaign.
PICTURED BY TIM BADGER PHOTOGRAPHY: Fareham’s attacker rises highest to win a header versus Hamworthy United on Saturday afternoon