Fareham win shootout after Badgers draw

By Connor Steel

FAREHAM TOWN bounced back from their Shaftesbury humiliation as they progressed to the quarter finals of the Wessex League Cup; beating high-flyers Brockenhurst on penalties after a two all stalemate after 90 minutes at Grigg Lane.

In cold wintry conditions the Creeksiders delivered a spot-on performance against the Badgers who dominated attacking opportunities but fell foul of a great run of penalty shootout wins stretching back to January 2019, with their recent FA Vase victory over Jersey Bulls the most recent before Tuesday night.

In front of 135 spectators, Fareham started the better as they should have opened the scoring after just five minutes, Charlie Cooper advancing forward to the right-hand by-line and finding Callum Benfield whose effort was brilliantly saved by home goalkeeper James Mayo. The rebound fell kindly to Ryan Mackney with his shot cleared off the line by defender Joe Chamberlain, while Benfield had a third attempt blocked as the Creeksiders pushed for an opener.

Brockenhurst responded with a neat spell of possession, which gave them a platform to attack, both Christie Ward and Sueng-Woo Yang finding dangerous positions but the final ball was lacking. This was as much down to great Fareham defending as they absorbed home possession with calmness and relative ease, trying to hit the hosts on the counter attack on 22 minutes. In this moment of quick thinking on 22 minutes, Benfield intercepted a loose pass and worked the ball to striker Simon Woods who fired wide under pressure.

The game reached the half hour mark without any further incident, before Brockenhurst enjoyed a period of play that saw them create their first shot on target in the 34th minute. Ben Dukes was able to cut inside down the left and fire towards the bottom corner, only to be denied by Luke Douglas in the Fareham goal before an enforced stoppage due to an injury to Ryan Keates. Once play resumed the Creeksiders had their next chance with Benfield’s angled drive again cleared off the goalline, this time by centre back Rowan Moore.

The goal soon came on 42 minutes as Brockenhurst won a corner after James Shorey’s shot was deflected out, with the low ball drilled across the penalty area by Matt Sheedy. Striker Christie Ward was able to react quickest and fired into the back of the Fareham net; sparking cheers from the home crowd. Like buses however one goal became two as Fareham equalised just 76 seconds after falling behind, good interlinking play in midfield releasing the advancing Ash Tattersall in space and the veteran Creeksider made no mistake  firing across Mayo between the sticks. It proved to be the last action of the first half, with referee Tony Smith blowing his whistle after one minute of stoppage time, the scores level.

Fareham came out attacking after the restart despite an enforced substitution as Adam Hatton replaced the injured goalscorer Tattersall, seeing Mayo deny another effort this time from Mackney at a corner down the right. Moments later, the Brockenhurst goalkeeper was forced into action again with a smart save from another Cooper effort at his near post before the Creeksiders’ winger played a dangerous cross that was narrowly missed by both Woods and Kai Sterne at the back post of the penalty area on 52 minutes.

From this point onwards proceedings swung in Brockenhurst’s favour as they began to turn their own possession into chances with shots from Ward and Dukes going close in a matter of seconds. But the hosts weren’t denied for long as they retook a lead in the 54th minute, Matt Sheedy setting up Ward through on goal and the striker making no mistake with a clever reversed finish to make it 2-1 with his second goal of the evening. Substitutes then caused a slight lull as the game ticked towards the hour mark, one notable attack seeing Dukes’ powerful effort saved by the away keeper from distance despite the ball bobbling off the surface.

On 63 minutes Fareham did go close to equalising as Ethan Jones won the ball in midfielder and placed a delicate pass into the path of Benfield, who beat the keeper to the loose through-ball but had his curling effort flick the far post and sadly bounce away for a goal kick. Down the other end the Badgers were dominating possession and chances in terms of volume rather than quality. Sheedy fired over with a long distance shot and Moore headed over a corner; while Jack Smith, Ryan Keates and Shorey went close with the game reaching the 75 minute mark without any change to the scoreline.

On 76 minutes a counter attack left Cooper in space before being fouled by Moore, leaving the Fareham player in a heap and needing a couple of minutes of treatment. But despite hobbling he produced a moment of true quality with 10 minutes left to play as Fareham equalised, latching onto a ball down the left and unleashing an unstoppable rocket onto the underside of the bar into the net. This made it 2-2 and anybody’s game to win, although Brockenhurst were looking more dangerous in the final moments.

Right back Connor Ings went close as he forced Douglas into a smart save with Shorey heading over an inviting rebound from seven yards with the goal gaping. On 86 minutes Sheedy fired into the trees behind the goal when well placed and Moore shot over the bar from 30 yards, but the biggest scare for Fareham came in added time as a cross found Christie Ward who tapped home for his hat-trick, only for the offside flag to be raised and the goal chalked off. This was the final notable action as the referee blew for full time shortly afterwards; meaning a penalty shootout was needed.

Both Badgers’ player Jude Nwachukwu and Callum Benfield scored the opening penalties, before the first miss fell the way of hosts Brockenhurst as Shorey hit the crossbar. Ethan Jones stepped up to give Town the advantage; with Moore, Mayo and Sheedy scoring for the hosts. But sadly for the home fans Fareham didn’t miss a penalty as Ben Rowthorn and Bailey Newbury scored in quick succession leaving Ryan Mackey to finish the job and seal a 5-4 victory in the shootout after a faultless run of five scored penalties. This sparked relief for away fans, who had something to celebrate for their long journey home on a Tuesday evening.

Fareham’s next opponents in this competition are not yet known as attention now turns to a busy couple of weeks planned for the Creeksiders. They will travel to Burnaby Road to play US Portsmouth in the league on Saturday afternoon before hosting Harvest in the Portsmouth Senior Cup next Tuesday night at Cams Alders. Town will then quickly return to league action on November 13 with an away trip to Alresford Town before the much anticipated FA Vase encounter versus Abbey Rangers on 20/11 in the second round. For Brockenhurst they will look to bounce back with their league encounter against bottom side Hythe & Dibden this upcoming Saturday before a top three clash versus Baffins Milton Rovers next weekend.

PICTURED BY PAUL PROCTOR: Fareham play Brockenhurst in September 2020