By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN extended their winless run to five league games on Saturday afternoon as they suffered a late defeat against Baffins Milton Rovers, losing two-one in the postcode derby at Cams Alders. But in truth it was a match that could have gone either way following a goalless first period, bouncing to life during the 2nd as the hosts created multiple chances in front of over three hundred supporters; their visitors hitting them on the break with four minutes on the clock to signal a third successive home defeat since victory on October 1.
It was Baffins who created the opening chance of proceedings as Jason Parish cut inside down the right and fired wide from an angle, debutant Tyler Giddings flashing his cross past the post after seven minutes. These half chances seemed to give Fareham a scare and they slowly worked themselves into the match through an ever-ending succession of set-pieces that were expertly absorbed by away defenders; their goalkeeper Roux Hardcastle proving alert as he collected the last delivery under pressure from the sliding legs of Eder Batista.
Baffins created a couple of good chances with Tom Vincent’s diving header being deflected away and a drive from Joe Johnson was dragged harmlessly over the crossbar when well placed, but both sides seemed to be fighting a midfield battle that neither wanted to lose as proceedings neared the thirty minute mark at 0-0. This saw Fareham’s best opportunity to open the scoring as Casey Bartlett-Scott’s low whipped cross fell kindly to the feet of Jack Breed whose effort from eight yards was blocked by Hardcastle’s torso before being cleared.
Two home players were booked for soft fouls by an arguably inconsistent referee who did not punish Baffins as they made similar tackles; a free kick for the visitors curled inches over from Parish on thirty-four minutes. In response Fareham pushed for the opening goal before the break as Jack Nicholas saw his powerful drive deflected wide and Jake Wight having an effort blocked at source, the visitors seeing a stoppage time curler drift past home goalkeeper Luke Deacon’s near post as the score remained goalless at the half time interval.
Graham Rix made two substitutions and was forced into his third upon the restart, Ashley Tattersall receiving a minor knock challenging for a fifty-fifty tackle in midfield. But this didn’t seem to affect the home players as a chipped effort by Tom Settle was tipped wide by Hardcastle before they did eventually take a 2nd half lead after on 51 minutes; Connor Underhill cutting inside on the left and playing through a pass to Charlie Cooper who made no mistake in slotting a drive into the near post for one-nil, sparking prolonged and joyous cheers.
Harvey Wellham dragged wide for the visitors but they were back level within one minute of falling behind on their next attack, a long pass leading to a Deacon save and Vincent following the initial shot by tapping home the rebound into the open net for one-all. To their credit Fareham reacted quickly as Underhill hit the far post on 65 minutes with Cooper somehow missing an open goal from just yards out. Ethan Jones dragged across the six-yard box and Cooper had an opportunity to redeem his earlier miss; his shot shading an outside post.
Both teams began to push for a winner in the final ten minutes after tactical changes, the away side arguably looking the most dangerous as Parish and Johnson went close in quick succession. Pressures finally told on 87 minutes as Baffins scored their second when substitute Liam Brewer found space and sent his curler into the far corner; a lead that was not overturned by Fareham despite a Nicholas free kick being well stopped by Hardcastle and a potential equaliser ruled out in stoppage time as the referee had already blown his whistle.
Other results mean that Fareham are tenth following this defeat with five victories from their first 12 matches, but will feel that they missed an opportunity after recent postponements gave them a recent two week break. However this has led to a lengthy calendar of fixtures before the festive break, which begins with a knockout tie against Pagham on Tuesday night at Cams Alders. They are then scheduled to play two big away league matches versus Blackfield & Langley next weekend alongside a journey to Pagham three days later (22/11).
PICTURED BY BAFFINS MILTON ROVERS FC: Away attacker is challenged by Fareham defender in hard fought derby between two mid-table teams, the visitors coming out on top after the ninety minutes at Cams.