A quickfire double from the visitors before half time and a thunderbolt from Willett sealed the win for the visitors, with Portchester gaining what proved to be a consolation goal as they lacked conviction in terms of clinical finishing.
In wet and windy conditions, Horndean started well in possession and saw the first chance after four minutes. Winger Ben Anderson found space following some good play down the right, but his shot went wide of the far post. Moments later an away corner landed at the feet of Connor Duffins, who had his volley blocked at source for another set piece down the left side. However this early visiting pressure was halted as Jack Lee suffered an injury and had to be replaced by Luke Dempsey, a blow as the midfielder had surprised Portchester with his passing range.
The Royals quickly regrouped and had their own spell of possession, creating two half chances around the 20-minute mark. Firstly Lee Wort tried to curl an effort into the corner but saw his tame shot saved by Deans’ keeper Cameron Scott before Marley Ridge fired over the bar under pressure at an angle. But arguably the best opportunity came for Horndean as captain Ash Howes fired a powerful drive towards goal, which forced a great save by home keeper Steve Mowthorpe who tipped it over the bar for a corner on 23 minutes.
Portchester’s best chance arrived when Sam Pearce was fouled outside the penalty area near the corner, which was taken by Keiron Roberts. The hotshots striker was inches wide with his curling effort that seemed to evade everybody, but went closer with another free kick on target on 41 minutes. But just as the half time loomed with the scores level, Horndean stunned Portchester with two goals in three minutes to put themselves into true control.
The opener came on 43 minutes as Howes tried to set Duffin through on goal, but the pass was blocked and deflected heavily into the feet of the striker who made no mistake in firing past Mowthorpe into the bottom left corner. In stoppage time this away lead was doubled by Zack Willett as he collected a fine pass by Anderson and calmly slotted past a stranded Portchester keeper who couldn’t react in time. This was the last notable action of the first half, with the referee giving the players a break from almost relentless rain across the Wicor.
Although Lee Wort turned his defender and saw a low shot gathered by Scott in the Horndean goal, it was the visitors who quickly found their rhythm in the second half; seeing Alfie Liz curl one wide and Duffin’s looping header was saved by Mowthorpe at his near post. But the Portchester keeper couldn’t prevent a third Horndean goal in the 58th minute as Willett collected the ball and drove forward; hitting a rising drive into the top corner off the crossbar.
It was a fine individual goal that sparked a series of substitutions for both sides with the result seemingly already settled. After the traditional breaks in play for these changes, Portchester did get a glimmer of hope as they pulled one back on 67 minutes. Jake Raine hit a low effort towards goal that was saved by Horndean keeper Scott, but Wort was quickest to react with a calm finish on the rebound from seven yards into the corner
From this point Portchester dominated the possession with good calm passing, but were unable to break down a stubborn Horndean defence led by Sam Hookey. This didn’t mean there weren’t opportunities in the last 25 minutes. Roberts’ free kick was saved and substitute Lamin Jatta fired wide from an angled effort under pressure for the hosts as the rain continued to pour down.
In truth it was a poor performance from Portchester as the match drifted towards its conclusion with the 266 fans staying until the very end despite the weather, the hosts lucky not to end 4-1 down as a counter-attack saw Willett fire harmlessly wide when well placed on 87 minutes. The referee ended proceedings after two minutes of stoppage time, confirming the Royals’ second defeat in three games despite some improvements, whilst Horndean avenged their FA Cup defeat on the same ground back in early August.
Portchester slip down to 14th place in the Wessex League Premier after seven games with a record of two wins, three draws and two defeats so far. The Royals do however have games in hand on the teams around them and some favourable fixtures over the next seven days to climb up the table. The Royals will travel to Dorset on Saturday afternoon for a 3pm clash versus strugglers Christchurch, before travelling to Southampton to play bottom of the league Hythe & Dibden on Tuesday afternoon. Manager Dave Carter will be hoping for six points from these two games before Portchester play unbeaten Hamworthy on October 9, a battle between two sides who are favourites for promotion come May 2022.