By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER made it two successive wins as they hosted Blackfield & Langley on Saturday afternoon, beating their Southampton-based opponents two-one in a tight Wessex League match at the On-Site Group Stadium. Under grey skies the Royals dominated the possession and created some brilliant opportunities, but inspired goalkeeping and good defending made the score-line arguably a lot closer than expected; Blackfield giving their hosts a scare before Portchester sealed the winner in the second half to seal all three points and solidify their push for the top six.
The Royals made a lighting start and took the lead after just twenty-eight seconds after Rafa Ramos found space down the left; cutting inside and firing into the far corner despite the dive of Blackfield goalkeeper Amadeusz Skrzynairz. This early goal calmed any nerves as Portchester went close on five minutes to doubling their advantage when Steve Ramsey threaded the ball to Lee Wort who fired an effort wide; whilst new striker Felipe Barcelos, Ramos and Marley Ridge further forced the keeper into good saves before the quarter hour with powerful drives on target.
Weathering the early storm Blackfield slowly worked their way into proceedings and created their 1st opportunities after twenty-one minutes; Owen Fee’s cross headed just over by the on-rushing Jack Nicholas and Bradley Gale firing wide from range past the post. Down the other end Portchester had their best chance to double their lead after 28 minutes as Ridge and Wort linked up, the latter lifting a shot over the stranded Skrzynairz only to be denied by Luke Gray’s defensive clearance; whilst Olly Searle did score in a separate move on 33 minutes but was ruled offside.
Further chances for Portchester came as Ridge fired wide under pressure, Wort shooting over after a fine team move and Ramos seeing his low curling effort tipped wide by Skrzynairz; with Blackfield clearing away the resulting corner before it reached the unmarked Sam Pearce six yards out. These missed opportunities were punished by the visitors as they won a free kick following a succession of deliveries; Fee stepping up from twenty yards in stoppage time and converting over the wall into the corner to send the two sides level as the referee blew for the half time interval.
Portchester nearly replicated their first half start as they broke forward on 46 minutes with Barcelos running through on goal; seeing his low angled shot saved by Skrzynairz’s legs and the rebound was fired wide by Wort under pressure. Five minutes later another Royals’ goal was ruled out for offside as Ramos converted his captain’s free kick delivery, before Ridge burst through the defence only to see his shot flick the outside post after beating Skrzynairz; whilst Blackfield went close to taking the lead themselves on the counter attack with Wayne Robinson blazing over from range.
Substitutions for both sides slowed the game down slightly just after the hour mark, although hosts Portchester were looking dangerous with continuous attacks as Skrzynairz was at full stretch to deny Wort’s diving header on 66 minutes from Ramos’ deep cross. And the away keeper continued to be a thorn in the Royals’ side as he performed another brilliant stop to tip substitute George Barker’s long ranger wide of the post minutes later; also putting his body on the line as he smothered at the feet of Wort as the striker found space inside the penalty area following incisive passing.
Portchester finally made the breakthrough on 76 minutes as Tyler Giddings ran through the defence before being fouled entering the area; the referee blowing for a penalty without any hesitation. Up stepped Wort whose effort from twelve yards was too powerful for Skrzynairz as he got his left hand to the ball. Blackfield sought to respond immediately with Fee again going close but this chance of approach saw extra space for Portchester looked for a game-clinching third; Barcelos seeing a shot saved by Skrzynairz and firing two further efforts saved as the Royals settled for two goals to seal a hard fought win.
Although the three points don’t move Portchester up the table, it has brought them closer to Baffins Milton Rovers in seventh place with a game in hand on their local postcode rivals. But attentions for Dave Carter’s side must turn to their Hampshire Senior Cup semi-final clash versus Farnborough on Wednesday evening hoping for another huge cup-set after beating Hartley Wintney in mid-January. The Royals will then play Hamble Club on Saturday afternoon with a 3pm kick-off at the On-Site Group Stadium before travelling to league title chasers Brockenhurst the following midweek.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: New attacking talent Felipe Barcelos holds off the close attention of an away defender as Portchester came out on top in Wessex League encounter at On-Site Group Stadium.