By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER continued their outstanding winning streak to nine league games on Saturday as they hosted Hythe & Dibden at the On-Site Group Stadium, beating their Southampton based opponents four-two under lovely autumnal skies. And it was a deserved victory for the home side in front of a crowd of 300+ fans as they were ruthless in the final third with four goals scored; although they were definitely forced to graft for all three points as the visitors caused dangerous problems in proving themselves to be a much sterner test.
Both sides started steadily following tough midweek encounters as neither team seemed to control a midfield battle, the first opening coming after thirteen minutes when Harrison Fay fired wide after a brilliant pass from Dave Wyatt. This seemed to give Hythe the confidence to attack and they won a penalty as Ollie Erdinc went down in the box, Flippos Terzeris converting the spot kick with ease past the home keeper Steve Mowthorpe into the bottom right corner on twenty minutes to temporally silence the majority of supporters in the stadium.
Going behind seemed to spark Portchester into life as they found success with some quick passing, creating their first opening on 24 minutes as Brett Pitman found space down the left. A nodded backpass from Marley Ridge found Ashton Leigh in space who drove his powerful effort over the bar; the former then seeing a 2nd shot flick the side netting on 28 minutes. And they were even closer on the half hour as Ryan Wilkins’ cross found Pitman unmarked, his header not enough to fully test Hythe keeper Ellis Grant who gathered the ball.
But the hosts didn’t wait long for their equaliser as they scored on 35 minutes, winning possession on the left and playing the ball out wide to Leigh; his deep cross picking out Harrison Brook and he made no mistake in simply nodding home into the corner for 1-1. Portchester further completed their turnaround as they took the lead before half time through a low set piece which found its way to Pitman at the far post, the experienced striker rising highest to convert into the net despite the best efforts of two visiting defenders on the goalline.
Hythe were likely given a rocket by their manager at the interval and they equalised within sixty seconds of the restart following good interplay down the right, which ended in a whipped cross being converted by the onrushing Terdidis who doubled his tally for the afternoon. But this parity was ended three minutes later as Portchester retook their single goal advantage with Jake Raine’s cross being recycled by Leigh, who found Pitman sliding between a defender and goalkeeper to nestle his effort inside the bottom right corner for 3-2.
From this point forward the hosts dominated the chances either side of 60 minutes as multiple tweaks were made on both teams; Pitman cursing his luck as he shot wide from 35 yards in a quest for another hat-trick. Ridge forced a brilliant save from Grant between the away sticks on fifty-seven minutes and the goalkeeper furthermore denied Brook on the turn in the area moments later, Leigh also hitting the woodwork with a free kick effort that left the visiting backline standing in awe as Brook drove straight at Grant with his long ranger.
The fourth and ultimately killer goal for Portchester came after seventy-three minutes as Ridge dashed clear down the right and played a low cut-back into the path of Brook, who side footed easily inside the bottom left corner despite Grant’s best efforts. And this knocked all the stuffing out of Hythe who were struggling to keep up, Pitman again going close with his powerful drive from over thirty yards amidst further home substitutions; the hosts happy to settle for just four goals to coincide with a fully deserved three points from this encounter.
Dave Carter’s team remain just three points clear of 2nd-position Bemerton Heath Harlequins at the Wessex League summit, their rivals keeping tabs with the Royals as they thrashed Bournemouth Poppies eight-nil on Saturday afternoon. But Portchester will now get a brief respite from league action as they face 2 cup games either side of next Saturday’s trip to United Services Portsmouth; hosting rivals Baffins Milton Rovers for the Wessex League Cup derby on Wednesday evening before Brockenhurst visit in the Russell Coates Cup 1R.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Portchester were made to work very hard in sunny home conditions on Saturday as they came out on top against Hythe & Dibden on Saturday, winning ninth straight league game.