Poppies thrashed by formidable Royals

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER extended their unbeaten league campaign to thirteen matches and opened a six point gap as leaders of the Wessex Premier after beating Bournemouth Poppies, thrashing their visitors five-nil on Tuesday evening. And it was nothing less than a deserved three points for Dave Carter’s in-form side as they simply dominated on a brilliant pitch surface, scoring four goals without reply during a second half blitz as the away defence succumbed to intense pressure following their determined efforts throughout the first forty-five.

The Royals started quickly as they adapted to the wet surface following recent heavy rain, creating their first opening in the fourth minute when Marley Ridge’s header was saved at close range by Poppies keeper Jack Robertson. Moments later Harrison Brook robbed a defender of possession and saw his low shot blocked at source, the rebound falling kindly to James Cowan whose powerful effort hit the near left post; Bournemouth posing a threat on the counter attack as Michael Finch set up Kyle Graham who saw his drive cleared away.

Following this scare Portchester regained overall control of possession and went close in the 22nd minute of proceedings with another opportunity, a corner being cleared to the right with Brett Pitman heading wide from Elliot Wheeler’s deep cross. But the home team were ahead just three minutes later on their next attack as a good cross was hung into the near post finding Liam Robinson in space; the winger running across the area at pace and easily converting past Robertson inside the bottom right corner with a header from six yards out.

It should have been 2-0 after a quieter spell as incisive interplay reached Pitman and he used his experience to turn his marker at pace, but sent a whipped shot inches wide of the far post from an angle with the keeper seemingly beaten. A series of corners were then cleared by the Bournemouth defenders before they created their best chance of the evening as Conor Jevon somehow missed his free header as a cross flashed in front of him; a rare opening that proved to be the last for both sides before the referee blew for the half time break.

The interval only served to break Bournemouth’s slow but steady momentum and the Royals came out firing upon the restart, seeing Pitman’s chipped-shot brushing the crossbar from twenty yards after neat work from Harrison Brook down the right. Ridge and Robinson further saw brilliant chances missed in quick succession as they laid siege on the away penalty area; the former slamming his driven shot back off the woodwork after sixty minutes as Brook marginally missed the rebound after being found in a pocket of space via a deflection.

Not that the Royals were denied for too long as they doubled their lead moments later following another neat foray forward, high pressing seeing Pitman chase down a loose ball before sending his brilliant effort into the corner leaving the away keeper with little chance of reacting. This quickly became 3-0 after Robertson saved another potential wonder-finish from Pitman by tipping his shot over, Ridge taking the resultant set piece and finding the sprint of Sam Pearce who simply couldn’t miss from seven yards as he rose highest to nod home.

The match was sealed on sixty-seven minutes as Portchester added their fourth goal through Ridge, who got his deserved reward as he placed a low effort inside the bottom corner following a pacey charge from Pitman down the right. Substitutions followed for both sides with Scott Jones seeing his shot blocked on eighty-three minutes before his team got their fifth and final goal; Pearce calmly nodding home in an identical finish to his first to make it five-nil as the match drifted towards its natural conclusion following one minute of added time.

Following their twelve success from 13 matches, Portchester have increased their point tallies to thirty seven and now sit six clear at the summit; although Bemerton Heath Harlequins currently has one game in hand on the pace-setters with heavy rain decimating the non-league calendars last weekend. But with drier conditions forecast the Royals face another home tie on Saturday as they host Alresford Town from 3pm; a big occasion that will allow supporters to pay tribute for Remembrance Day alongside an opportunity to seal further points.

PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL PHOTOGRAPHY: Players chase the loose ball in attacking areas during first half before Portchester produce blistering second to seal a 5-0 league victory over Poppies in midweek.