Portchester advance with Hartley shock

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER reached the semi-final stage of the Hampshire Senior Cup, beating their Southern League South opponents Hartley Wintney one-nil at the On-Site Group Stadium with an outstanding all round performance on Tuesday night. Striker Lee Wort got the winner for Dave Carter’s side on a cold and foggy evening, both sides cancelling each other out before the solidary goal that sealed the Royals’ progress in front of over 200 supporters. It capped a fine night to be a Portchester supporter as they extended their unbeaten run to nine in all competitions and continued their fine run in cup matches so far in the ongoing 2021-2022 campaign.

Portchester saw the first chance of the evening after six minutes as the ball was worked into the left foot of Wort from a throw-in, with the striker’s low snapshot comfortably saved by away goalkeeper Luke Williams at his near post. This seemed to spark Wintney into life as Dan Fitchett was closed off by a defender before dangerous winger Jordan Edwards went close with his low effort saved well by the home keeper Steven Mowthorpe. The last action of the opening spell saw an injury stoppage to Lamin Jatta, the home striker unable to shake it off and was replaced with youngster Harvey Ashton.

And the attacker nearly made an instant impact after twenty-one minutes; playing a great pass into the feet of Wort from an angle. However after making space to shoot, the attacker’s low effort was inches away from the bottom corner as it drifted wide of the post. Down the other end Wintney saw another opportunity as Lucias Vine picked out Ryan Case who saw his shot blocked at source, whilst a shot from Matt Drage found the side netting with a low effort from a corner; their best chance in the 29th minute coming when Toby Raggett’s save was brilliantly saved by Mowthorpe for a corner.

But despite the dominance by Wintney in terms of possession, Portchester were looking dangerous on the counter attack and saw their next chance on 38 minutes; a brilliant 25-yard free kick routine from Conor Bailey finding captain Steve Ramsey whose quick shot went just wide with away keeper Williams beaten at his near post. Frustration seemed to build for the away side as Vine picked up a yellow card for blocking a set piece on 41 minutes, whilst Adam Allen found Raggett who fired wide under pressure. The referee ended a goalless first half following four minutes of added injury time.

Aaron Goode replaced Harry Taylor at the interval and this seemed to solidify the away side as they looked good in attacking efforts, Drage and Allen seeing tame shots saved by Mowthorpe within two minutes whilst Jake Rumble headed over a corner after rising highest in a crowded penalty area. But Portchester were definitely holding their own and absorbed the pressure in a ten minute spell; giving them a platform to attack. They created their best chance on 61 minute when some good link-up led to a pass finding Marley Ridge, whose low shot hit the crossbar and safely away before being cleared.

Portchester continued their momentum and nearly scored the opener on 66 minutes when a long ball from Ramsey was brought down by Wort who flicked the ball around his defender with a second touch; thus allowing him to hit a first-time volley wide of the post. The hosts also hit the crossbar for a second time with twenty-one minutes left when captain Ramsey’s cross spun towards goal and hit the top of the woodwork with the keeper beaten, whilst Vine headed wide down the other end just minutes later. On 72 minutes Edwards fired harmlessly over with another effort, with a goalless draw and penalty shootout looming.

But Wort had no plans to test the nerve of supporters as he scored the decisive winner on the 75th minute, sparking huge celebrations around the ground. The striker was left free in the box and was found by a Ridge cut-back that was easily side-footed home into the bottom corner for 1-0, a lead that was nearly doubled just five minutes later after substitutions for the visitors. Aston and Wort linked up down the right side with the ball finding Barker in space; the shot blocked at source and out for a corner. This was to be the last chance of the night as Portchester held on for a fantastic win and a clean sheet against stronger opposition, reaching the last four of the competition.

The Royals’ will find out their semi final opponents in due course, but attention will now turn to the league as they hope to climb up the table. Two away games versus AFC Stoneham and Amesbury Town follow in the next seven days, before ending January with a home clash versus Bashley on the 29th. For Hartley Wintney they will play Yate Town away on Saturday before hosting Poole Town and Salisbury within the following seven days, hoping to leapfrog Gosport in the Southern League Division table.

PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Portchester try another shot from a corner against Hartley Wintney on Tuesday night