By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN FC progressed to the next round of the Wessex League Cup with a comfortable three-nil victory against Horndean on Tuesday night, both sides putting out much changed sides due to upcoming fixture congestion as the season progresses. Goals from Kai Sterne, Bailey Newbury and Archie Wilcox helped the Creeksiders seal the win played in heavy rain at Cams Alders; building on their narrow success against Bournemouth Poppies at the weekend.
Horndean started better on a wet and slippery surface as new Fareham keeper Jon Webb was forced into three good saves in the opening five minutes. Alfie Lis, Laurence Cooper and Mark Smith all saw efforts stopped by the feet & gloves of the former Portchester stop-stopper in quick succession; a fine start to the debutant signed after Dan Kempson’s injury on Saturday. Down the other end the hosts had their first chance in the eighth minute when Kai Sterne broke forward, but saw his low shot well stopped by away keeper Lewis Mees between the sticks.
But the Creeksiders were not to be deterred and took an eleventh minute on their very next foray forward, a good passing move finding Sterne again down the right after winning the ball in midfield. The attacker ghosted past his markers and beat two defenders to find himself in space just inside the penalty area before firing a low shot into the bottom near post from twelve yards out. It was a goal that seemed to give the 150+ large crowd some cheer, particularly as they were rewarded quickly for braving the soaking elements engulfing the stadium.
Jack Van Der Lugt fired into the side netting from an angle with Adam Hatton’s header going wide after a corner down the right side for Fareham; who were keen to double their lead as the clock ticked towards the half-hour mark. Horndean then saw Sam Emeney booked for a late foul as this cup clash reached a feisty stage as tackles began flying in on a sodden pitch, with the referee having a word with players of both sides before tensions boiled over. The visitors were on top before the half time break with Lis’ free kick drifting wide and Evan Harries saw his lobbed effort fly inches over the crossbar from 35 yards out in the final action of first half proceedings.
Horndean continued their spell of dominance in the second period as Harries’ forced a smart save by Webb in the Fareham goal before Mark Smith saw a drive float wide of the post on 56 minutes. In contrast the Creeksiders were lacking any midfield presence and they saw some frustration creep into their play; both Van Der Lugt and Louis Udeh seeing cautions before Gary Austin hobbled of the field after a strong tackle in the Horndean half. The striker was replaced by Newbury in a change that saw substitutes for both sides just after the hour mark, which seemed to change the hosts’ tactics to a counter attack plan as space opened up behind the Horndean defence.
Although the visitors saw further chances through Ben Metherell and Tom Blamire with twenty minutes, home boss Pete Stiles’ plan to hit Horndean on the break worked perfectly on 76 minutes. The ball was won in midfield and was worked into the feet of Newbury, who netted his second in two games when he fired low into the corner from eight yards through the defender’s legs past an unsighted keeper. It was a fine individual effort that saw applause from the majority of fans as the players celebrated a goal that ended the game as a meaningful contest.
Fareham’s final change occurred moments later as Dan Bennett was replaced by Archie Wilcox, who was playing in a centre midfielder role and scored the third for the Creeksiders on 86 minutes. Ryan Mackney found space to advance down the by-line following an Ethan Jones’ throw-in, whipping the ball into the path of Wilcox, whose scissor-kicked effort hitting the top corner despite the best efforts of the young away keeper. The Creeksiders then saw out the remaining moments of play with the referee not giving much stoppage time, blowing his whistle to end a match in which both sides proved competitive despite the heavy rain and uncomfortable winds.
Fareham’s attentions now turn to FA Vase action as they host Jersey Bulls in the first round proper on Saturday afternoon, with a 2pm kick-off due to the travelling plans of their Channel Island based opponents. The Creeksiders will then travel to the Isle of Wight next Tuesday to play Cowes Sport before they host Shaftesbury at Cams Alders next Halloween weekend. For Horndean they will play Portchester on Saturday afternoon with a 3pm kick-off at Five Heads Park, hoping to bounce back and continue their good league form despite this defeat.