By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER maintained their one-hundred percent winning start to a new Wessex Premier Division season on Saturday afternoon as they travelled to Southampton, beating Blackfield & Langley two-one in a hard fought encounter. Brett Pitman was the hero for the visitors in soaring temperatures, scoring a penalty and a second half winner that sealed victory for the Royals on a difficult dusty surface away at Gang Warily.
The visitors started on the front foot with Liam Robinson dragging a shot wide after a good pass from Marley Ridge, whilst Pitman saw a header saved by Blackfield goalkeeper Adam Lewingray just moments later. And after a period of settling down the hosts saw their first opening on fifteen minutes as Brad Johnson fed Bue Bennett down the wing whose shot was blocked at source; Harry Edmondson heading over from the corner.
Away keeper Steven Mowthorpe then denied shots from Jake Younie and Clayd Roach in quick succession as Blackfield took arguable control, scoring after 24 minutes when the latter raced through and converted a long ball by slamming into the bottom right corner with a composed finish. In response George Barker went close to gaining a leveller 6 minutes later following an one-two with James Cowan, his low drive going wide.
After their bright start in temperatures above thirty degrees Blackfield seemed to retreat slightly in their bid to remain ahead at the interval, defending many corners and crosses into the box as Portchester attacked. And in stoppage time the Royals got their reward as a defender blocked the ball with his hand, Pitman proving his composure by sending Lewingray the opposite way as he placed the resulting spot-kick home to level at 1-1.
Blackfield came out firing upon the restart and nearly made it 2-1 on forty-nine minutes when an inside pass found the home goal-scorer in space, a crucial block from a defender diverting away from goal. One minute later the home fans were silenced by an absolute Pitman stunner from 30 yards, the striker looking up before sending a sensational lofted effort over the backtracking keeper’s head with relative ease making it two-one.
Pitman nearly claimed his hat-trick just before the hour as he fired wide a cut-back, before setting up Harvey Ashton for a shot brushing the side netting shortly afterwards. Down the other end Leon Longhurst drove his effort over from an angle as Blackfield proved a threat on the counter attack, whilst Roach and Johnson also went close for the hosts as the 2nd half water break signalled a welcomed interval under warm sunny skies.
Substitutions gave the final fifteen minutes a fresh spark as both sides created chances, Roach firing wide under pressure whilst Tyler Giddings’ low cross was narrowly missed at the back post. And it was the visitors who saw the final chance in stoppage as as Pitman attempted to get his hat-trick with the last kick but saw his low shot saved by the Blackfield goalkeeper down low; the referee soon bringing an end to proceedings.
With their second victory Dave Carter’s side do sit third in the table on maximum points; Pagham, Horndean and Bemerton Heath Harlequins joining them in having the perfect start. However attentions must turn to two knockout ties coming against Southern League opposition in the next nine days, starting with an away trip to Sholing in the FA Cup on Friday night before hosting AFC Totton in the Hampshire Senior Cup on the 23/08.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Portchester on the attack in their tight two-one victory in Southampton.