By Connor Steel
HORNDEAN FC became the first club to take points from AFC Portchester as the two rival teams met in the Wessex League on Tuesday evening, playing out an entertaining two-all stalemate at Five Heads Park. And this was perhaps the perfect result to this postcode derby that neither deserved to lose overall with unbeaten streaks at stake throughout; the Royals coming back from a losing position twice in front of a large crowd as their ever-green striker Brett Pitman scored two goals to take his tally to twenty in 16 matches this campaign.
Both teams made a nervous start following weekend defeats in the FA Vase, Portchester creating an opening chance after eight minutes when Marley Ridge fired wide as a deep free-kick was only partially cleared. This was a missed opportunity that Horndean did punish on ten minutes as they took the lead in the tenth minute; Harry Jackson collecting a looped ball forward and exchanged passes with Zack Willett before firing a driven effort that nestled past away goalkeeper Steven Mowthorpe from eighteen yards inside the far top left corner.
The home side had further opportunities to double their 1-0 advantage as Rudi Blankson worked himself into space for a low effort on fourteen minutes that was comfortably saved by Mowthorpe at his near post. Willett flashed wide moments later after beating two defenders on the left flank whilst Horndean further saw a series of corners, one good delivery landing at the feet of defender Ben Anderson who sliced wide after beating two markers; Blankson having the best opportunity as he screwed a curling shot wide under defensive pressure.
This home pressure seemed to subside in the last moments before the half time interval despite a powerfully hit free kick being deflected away hitting the wall, Portchester seeing multiple spells of brilliant possession in attacking areas with some corners well defended. The visitors did however get their deserved equaliser after forty-three minutes when Harrison Brook was fouled in a dangerous position; Pitman stepping up and firing a curling effort that hit the bottom right corner via a slight touch from the Horndean goalkeeper Cameron Scott.
Portchester were buoyed by this leveller and almost took the lead as the second half began with the scores level; James Cowan breaking down at pace down the left and floating a cross onto the head of Scott Jones who nodded straight into Scott’s gloves from close range. In response Blankson picked up a loose ball and advanced towards goal with his effort looking to nestle inside the post before a deflection made it easier for Mowthorpe to gather; the away manager making his opening change as Jake Raine replaced Ryan Wilkins.
And it was a substitution that arguably resulted in the second goal for Horndean on 58 minutes, Raine losing the ball in a fifty-fifty challenge that was won by a home player. The ball broke free and was played across to the overlapping Tommy Scutt who made no mistake in firing home across Mowthorpe in the left corner off the far post for 2-1. This could have been 3-1 after a prolonged lull due to an injury stoppage and substitution as Tommy Tierney saw his piledriver tipped over; Willett racing through 1-on-1 only to be denied by Mowthorpe.
Dave Carter’s team proved that they were no pushovers as they equalised yet again on eighty-two minutes; substitute Liam Robinson collecting a fine pass and playing his cross into the path of Pitman who slid home at the back post for two-all. Horndean then had their last chance to seal victory on 88 minutes when Tierney linked up with Scutt to fire straight at Mowthorpe; the Royals frustrated in stoppage time as they saw a goal from Ridge disallowed for offside before handball penalty shouts were turned down in the very final seconds.
The stalemate is the first of the season across both outfits with Portchester finally dropping points in the 11th match; Horndean sitting third in the division and remain six points behind their visitors having played a game less. But the Royals will be happier with the result following two straight cup losses as they showed a desire and heart to come back twice when facing a defeat; something that will boost their confidence further in their next game versus Hamble Club on Saturday afternoon before playing Portland United away on November 5.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL PHOTOGRAPHY: Horndean player slides and fairly wins ball off a pacey Portchester attacker during postcode derby on Tuesday night, neither side deserving to lose in 2-2 scoreline.