AFC PORTCHESTER continued their recent league resurgence after beating US Portsmouth on Tuesday evening in a local Wessex Premier derby, winning 4-1 in front of 204 supporters at the One-Site Group Stadium.
On an autumnal evening it was actually the visitors who took the lead in the first half before the Royals took full control, scoring four goals without reply either side of the break to move up the table to tenth place after 12 matches to date.
Making full use of their immaculate pitch surface, Portchester started on the front foot with a spell of uninterrupted possession, which allowed them to create their first opportunity in the first seven minutes. Good passing saw the ball worked into the feet of George Colson who played a cross into the penalty area, finding Lee Wort on the far post with his header looping over the bar from close range. Undeterred by this missed chance the hosts continue to push forward with Joe Briggs finding space and advancing down the wing only to see a low effort saved by Dylan Kramer at his far post on 13 minutes.
Not that it was one-way traffic as Ryan Smart looked dangerous for US Portsmouth with the striker’s effort drifting wide from 25 yards before good work between Dan Sibley and Tom Jeffes saw the away captain’s shot blocked at source as the match ticked towards the 20-minute mark. But an enforced change for Portchester changed the momentum of play as injured Ryan Pennery was replaced by Sam Pearce on 24’, allowing home midfielders to dominate again around the half hour mark with two quickfire chances.
Following a long ball forward on 32 minutes, Wort collected and held off his defender before cutting inside; seeing his curling effort deflected over the bar from the left. This resulting corner was then cleared by the away defence but fell to Adam Tomasso lurking on the edge, but his shot through a crowd of legs wasn’t enough to really test Kramer between the sticks. Portchester was quickly punished for not taking these chances as US Portsmouth took a lead two minutes as a cross from right back Jack Chandler was played into the box. The delivery reached the onrushing Obi Saidy at the near post rising above his marker, sending the midfielder’s flicked header bounced into the net off the post from eight yards out.
The Royals were stunned at falling behind against the run of play, but this didn’t stop them equalising on 39 minutes with the next notable attacking attempt. Steve Ramsey and George Barker combined to win a corner down the right via a defensive block, with the delivery finding an ever-dangerous Wort to head home past a static Kramer into the net to level. With the scores all-square it was a very quiet five minute spell before the break as both sides seemed to settle despite a long range effort from Owen Roundell going close. This was the last chance before the referee blew for the interval with the scores locked at one-apiece in this local derby.
Buoyed by the leveller and manager Dave Carter’s instructions, Portchester came out firing following the interval and took the lead just moments after Briggs’ low effort was saved by Kramer. Great work between Wort and Ramsey set up George Barker; the former Brighton and Swindon professional beating an inside challenge and curled an effort past the despairing dive of the away keeper. In response United Service Portsmouth nearly got an immediate response when winger John Cass broke through. But his scuffed effort flew straight at Mowthorpe from close range on 55 minutes.
Just before the hour mark Portchester extended their advantage to 3-1, with a neat passage of play finding George Colson in space. The right back’s pass across the box was cleverly stepped over by substitute Pearce and the ball ran through to Barker, who connected first time with a drive into the bottom left corner to seal a clinical attacking move. He then almost got his hat-trick moments later with a blocked shot, before further changes caused a lull in play as fresh legs tried to settle into this derby that wasn’t short of endeavour or intensity from either side.
But Portchester weren’t done yet as they continued to push forward, getting their reward on 69 minutes with their fourth and final goal. After a shot by home captain Ramsey was blocked at source, the rebound rolled calmly into the feet of the onrushing and unmarked Briggs; the winger’s angled low effort rasping across Kramer before settling into the bottom corner. It was a goal that gained applause from home supporters, with Lamin Jatta going close to making it five on 72 minutes as he headed over a cross from the left side.
Dangerman Blu Boam came off the bench for US Portsmouth as he tried to get a consolation goal for the visitors, but in truth they never really looked like scoring despite half efforts for the attacker alongside a drive from Florjet Vacaj in the 76th minute in a mini-spell of attacking play. But as the game drifted towards an inevitable conclusion Portchester tried to replicate the five goals scored when the sides last met in January 2012, with Lamin Jatta and Sam Pearce both seeing tame opportunities saved by the keeper; who in contrast to Mowthorpe was having a busy evening.
It was Kramer who was no doubt the visitor’s man-of-the-match, earning this status with a series of good saves in quick succession. In the final moments he tipped Ramsey’s 20-yarder over the bar for a corner, saved a header from Colson at the resulting corner and finally grabbed Wort’s angled effort in additional time. The Royals were therefore forced to settle for just the four goals, but will be grateful for the three points after their frustrating goalless draw versus Horndean as Dave Carter’s men stretched their unbeaten run to three league games and four overall since losing to Hamworthy.
Portchester’s next game will see them travel to Southampton for their game versus Blackfield & Langley on Saturday afternoon (3pm kick-off), which is the third encounter of the 2021-22 campaign following earlier FA Cup clashes. Another away league clash will see the Royals play Baffins Milton Rovers in another local Portsmouth derby next Tuesday, before they play Cowes Sports on the Isle of Wight in early November. For US Portsmouth in 17th position, they will play Hamworthy and Bournemouth over the next week as they look for points to move away from a potential relegation battle.