Moneyfields hold Royals in festive thriller

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER stretched their unbeaten start to nineteen matches in the Wessex Premier Division on Bank Holiday Tuesday as they drew three-apiece versus Moneyfields; surrendering their two-goal advantage throughout the second half to drop points for only the second occasion this campaign. Despite this imperfect result Dave Carter’s team will be delighted to be part of a fantastic advert for local non-league football, which drew a record crowd of over one thousand supporters to the Draper Tools Community Stadium for this derby.

Tackles across both teams added some extra spice in the opening minutes with Moneyfields creating the first opportunities after six minutes; Callum Bell driving wide from a tight angle before Ryan Pennery’s deep cross was narrowly missed at the back post by a sliding Callum Laycock. In response the visitors advanced quickly down the left with James Cowan blast harmlessly over from range on eight minutes whilst Brett Pitman drove wide seconds later; Chad Cornwell’s shot bouncing into the gloves of Steven Mowthorpe at the opposite end.

Moneyfields continued to push forward with Laycock stealing the ball off Connor Bailey and dragging his shot just wide of the post under pressure, but it was actually Portchester who opened the scoring after 23 minutes of play. It came from the left side of midfield as Bailey linked up with Marley Ridge before delivering a perfect cross into the penalty area; Pitman jumping highest and glancing his unmarked bullet header into the bottom right corner past the stranded home keeper Dylan Kramer to spark jubilant cheers from the away supporters.

An equaliser almost followed after the half hour as Harry Sargent capitalised upon high defensive tactics and saw his effort blocked at source, the rebound falling to Laycock who saw his low shot cleared off the goal line by Elliot Wheeler. The unlucky miss was soon punished when the visitors doubled their lead after 35 minutes through a sublime volleyed finish from Bailey, who sent his twenty-five yarder swerving into the corner after a set piece bounced kindly to him; this goal proving the last notable chance across both sides before half time.

The home side came out roaring upon the restart and immediately halved their arrears within five minutes to make it two-one; Mowthorpe somehow fumbling a whipped delivery into the area and the ball fell to Laycock who made no mistake in placing his low shot into the unguarded net. And just before the sixty minute mark it was two-apiece with Bell the beneficiary of incisive passing outside the box; the dangerous winger sending a low shot skidding underneath multiple legs inside the bottom right corner before celebrating with teammates.

Undeterred Portchester responded quickly and were awarded a penalty chance in the sixty-sixth minute after Harrison Brook was fouled by Kramer as he broke through; Ridge and Pitman setting this tone through good intricate passing that split the home defence. The latter stepped up and placed his spot kick inside the corner for three-two; a lead which only lasted five minutes as Moneyfields won their own penalty for a late tackle on Laycock. It was an arguably soft decision by the referee, but Bell seemed unnerved as he levelled up at 3-3.

Substitutes signalled a slight lull with both teams creating opportunities to score again during the final fifteen minutes of play; Moneyfields seeing Callum Glen curl a free kick just over from twenty yards before Bell saw a great chance for a hat-trick as his effort drifted across the far post on eighty-three minutes. Down the other end Portchester may have nicked the three points themselves with Pitman seeing his effort blocked during a goalmouth scramble and Bailey almost doubling his tally in stoppage time as he skied over from close range.

Despite coming back from behind on multiple occasions Moneyfields seemed disappointed at this 3-3 result, which leaves them sixth in the Wessex Premier before they host US Portsmouth in another local match next Tuesday night (January 3). In contrast Portchester extended their margin over nearest challengers Horndean and stay unbeaten in the division since April 9; a streak that they will be looking to maintain with the opening El-Creekio match of the season versus Fareham Town upcoming at the On-Site Group Stadium (January 2).

PICTURED BY DAVE BODYMORE: Moneyfields defence stands firm as they deny a Portchester attack from developing; the close local encounter finishing three-all at the Draper Tools Community Stadium on Tuesday.