By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN FC showed their attacking flair and defensive frailties within just ninety minutes on Wednesday night, beating Baffins Milton Rovers five-four in a Wessex League Premier thriller at the PMC Stadium. It was a simply fantastic advert for non-league football locally as both teams led and trailed at various points throughout, with chances further to add to the goalscoring before a Josh Benfield double late on sealed the three points for Fareham; denying their Portsmouth based rivals the opportunity to overtake Horndean to first place in the league.
Fareham took the lead after just five minutes on a good surface as the ball was worked into the feet of Charlie Cooper; whose angled effort found the corner via a large deflection off unlucky left back Rhys Lloyd that wrongfooted Baffins’ keeper Konrad Szymaniak at his far post. Moments later Archie Wilcox found space down the right wing and played a brilliant inswinging cross that saw Gary Austin head wide, whilst Stuart Morgan linked up with Curt Robbins on the edge of the box that ended with the latter firing harmlessly over the bar under defensive pressure.
Baffins were level on eleven minutes with arguably their first real attack, Oscar Johnson’s deep cross finding the advancing George Britton. But instead of shooting the winger simply teed up striker Craig McAllister who calmly slotted past Fareham keeper Henry Woodcock for his fourth goal in just the 5 last appearances. The hosts should have been ahead when McAllister was played through on goal as his shot was saved by the outrushing away keeper, whilst Austin and Morgan saw efforts blocked by the home keeper as the match reached its thirty-minute mark of play.
Frustrations of both sides nearly boiled over as referee Harry Redman brandished three yellow cards in five minutes with home defender Lee Molyneaux was booked for a foul; Morgan and Baffins left back Charlie Williamson joining him in the book following a post-foul scuffle. But once things calmed down Fareham took the lead as Morgan’s shot was saved by Szymaniak with the rebound running to Cooper; whose cross was bundled in at the back post by the former. This proved to be a final chance before the interval, this entertaining game still in the balance.
After a quiet opening fifteen minutes to the second period as Rudi Blankson and Stan Bridgman were brought off the bench, Baffins were level again on 63 minutes when Fareham lost possession from a free kick. The ball was worked to James Cowan who set Blankson away with a brilliant through ball and the striker made no mistake in fire home past Woodcock. And just sixty seconds later the hosts were ahead at 3-2 as Jason Parish found space behind the defence and calmly slotted home past the diving Fareham goalkeeper despite getting a touch to the drive.
With twenty minutes left Blankson nearly made it four-two to Baffins as a free kick was played into the penalty area, the striker nodding his effort over the bar from close range with the goal gaping. It was a miss that was punished by Fareham on 77 minutes as they equalised, left back Ethan Jones’ low cross finding Morgan to convert his second of the night from six yards out. But as the visitors celebrated, Baffins went straight at the other end and made it 4-3 as Blankson fired home a cross to net his twentieth goal of the campaign with a calm angled finish.
Remarkably that wasn’t the end of the goalscoring as Fareham made two substitutes, equalising in the 84th minute as Benfield gained possession following a wayward pass by Bridgeman on the left. It fell to the substitute winger and he advanced inside the area before firing home, whilst a fifth goal for Fareham arrived just seconds later when the substitute fired home what proved to be the final and winning ninth goal. The Creeksiders were able to hold on for the points as Baffins saw a sinbin as Cowan gave the referee some dissent after a harsh decision for Fareham.
Following two successive away games gaining four points, eleventh place Fareham now return to Cams Alders this Saturday as they host Southampton based Blackfield & Langley before playing Horndean on Tuesday night. Another home game versus Stoneham on February 5 before a two week break. In comparison Baffins will face two long trips to Portland United and Cowes in the next week before hosting Amesbury Town on February 5 as they hope to recover their title push in the Wessex League Premier.
PICTURED BY BAFFINS MILTON ROVERS MEDIA: Home attacker displays his emotions during topsy-turfy local derby at the PMC Stadium in Portsmouth on Wednesday night.