Off-form Fareham suffer fourth straight loss

By Connor Steel

FAREHAM TOWN FC fell to yet another Wessex Premier League defeat on Saturday afternoon, losing 4-1 away to mid-table side Alresford Town at Arlebury Park to continue the run of awful form  that started back in early October.

It also means that Town were unable to avenge their FA Cup exit at the Magpies’ hands in late August, consigned to their second negative result at the same stadium. More importantly though. Their latest loss means the Creeksiders have only won a single game from their previous seven to drop down to 10th, Pete Stiles’ men struggling with high swirling winds and a slippery surface despite two penalties for the 10-strong hosts who had a man sent off.

Following two minutes of silence for Remembrance weekend, the game started slowly as both sides adapted to conditions and this cagey feel evolved into a midfield battle neither wanted to lose. The first chance fell to Fareham after nine minutes as Charlie Cooper found Callum Benfield in space, with the latter’s shot dragged wide under pressure from a high-pressing home defence. Moments later down the other end, Alresford had their first opportunity as Mike Gosney beat Dan Kempson to a long ball and headed over the keeper, only to be denied by a headed goal-line clearance from the covering Ross Kidson.

Moments after Bailey Newbury had a shot saved by Alresford goalkeeper Callum Smart, the hosts were awarded a penalty on 26 minutes when a long pass over the defence saw Kempson foul the player instead of winning the ball. The Fareham goalkeeper redeemed himself by saving the spot-kick from Brandon Channell, but unfortunately the rebound fell to the onrushing Iiyas Warshow who nestled home via a deflection into the corner. From kick off it was 2-0 to the home side as another long ball went over the high and static away defence, winger Kristian Andonov able to squeeze his low effort into the corner despite the best efforts of Kempson.

Stunned by these quickfire goals, Fareham sought to respond immediately with efforts from Curt Robbins and Kai Sterne going close but not enough to test the gloves of Smart between the sticks; Ashley Tattersall also heading over from a corner down the left. In contrast, Alresford tried to take advantage of the visitors’ high line and saw James Parker Trott denied by Kempson, while Harry Barkerway and George Winser also went close in the final moments before the break; a chance for the Creeksiders to regroup as they looked to arrest their poor control on the proceedings.

Fareham made a substitution at the break with Simon Woods replacing Newbury, Jack Breed moving into centre back and Cooper slotting into right back as a result of tactical changes. This seemed to give the visitors more pace in defence and a platform to defend, creating the first clear chance of the second half on 53 minutes. Great link-up play between Cooper and Woods saw space open up for the latter, the striker’s shot spinning harmlessly wide when well placed, Breed also shooting straight at Smart with his ambitious effort from 25 yards out shortly after. But these missed opportunities were punished by clinical Alresford finishing. They made it 3-0 just before the hour mark.

It came from a home free kick which was worked into the corner to find Warshow whose brilliant inswinging cross evaded the Fareham defence to find the lurking Andanov; the striker making no mistake in slotting home his second of the afternoon. In response, the Creeksiders brought on debutant Elliot Holmes and Ryan Mackney, with the latter playing in Woods who had an effort blocked by Sutcha Shepherd for a corner down the left side. Holmes was beginning to make an impact as he had a shot deflected into the hands of Smarts, whilst Alresford were reduced to 10 men on 72 minutes with a red card as Sam Steel fouled Woods on the edge of the box to deny a clear goalscoring opportunity.

The resulting set piece was ultimately wasted however and despite their numerical disadvantage Alresford were looking more threatening on the counter attack, making it 4-0 after 77 minutes to kill off any hopes of a Fareham comeback. It came from a poor mistake at the back and another foul in the penalty area in a desperate attempt to clear the ball, Channell making no mistake to slot home the second spot kick of a dry afternoon in North Hampshire. Fareham did get a consolation in the 87th minute as Cooper ran past three defenders and hung a cross into the box, which found the advancing Kidson who headed home past a stranded Smart to end the clean home sheet with arguably the last notable action of the game.

Not for the first time this campaign, Fareham have lost heavily with little positives to take from this latest defeat, falling down to 10th in the Wessex League table, taking 24 points from 17 games and being leapfrogged by local rivals Portchester. The Creeksiders will now have a week off with an urgent need to regroup before their huge FA Vase second round proper next Saturday against Abbey Rangers at Cams Alders as they look to continue recent form in this non-league tournament. It won’t get any easier for Fareham in the league either, with high flying Brockenhurst travelling to Cams on November 23 before visiting top-of-the-table Horndean at Five Heads Park four days later. Alresford have a chance to overtake Creeksiders next weekend as they play bottom-of-the-league side Hythe & Dibden, who have conceded 93 goals in just 20 games since being promoted.

PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN MEDIA: Previous encounter between the sides in 2017/18 Wessex League