By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER rounded off their home pre-season preparations as they completed an impressive victory versus Sholing on Tuesday evening (July 25); beating their local Southern League Premier opponents 2-0 at the Onsite Group Stadium with a dominant performance that should have yielded more goals than their double scored in the second half.
Under cloudy skies it was the Royals who started the brighter and should have been given a spot-kick as Josh Benfield was shoved in the box; the referee denying loud appeals from fans and players in just the sixth minute. The striker then saw an effort stopped by away keeper Ryan Gosney; who further saved drives from both Harrison Brook and Lee Wort.
Down the other end Sholing were having great spells of possession but were guilty of delaying the final pass or shot on target from promising positions; the first attempt seeing Brad Target cutting inside the area before having his left angled drive blocked. This was quickly followed by Rob Flooks seeing his effort saved and another chance cleared off the line.
The hosts regained momentum within the last five minutes before half time; Gosney diving down low to deny Benfield’s shot at his right boot before clutching a cross from the wing on 37 minutes. And in stoppage time they went even closer when Jake Hesketh misjudged a switch ball and was almost punished; Wort nodding over from Brook’s flicked delivery.
Both sides came out firing in the second half with Wort blazing over a shot from twenty yards after forty-seven minutes; Sholing responding with a flowing move that forced home goalkeeper Steven Mowthorpe into a fine save. Substitutions then followed from both managers as the crucial hour mark approached with Portchester making a small tactical tweak.
And this immediately paid dividends as they took the lead just moments later with fast interplay reaching Marley Ridge; the youngster holding off his marker before unleashing a deflected effort that wrongfooted Gosney. This further pushed Portchester in hope for more goals with James Cowan narrowly dragging a shot wide before Wort and Brook fired over.
Dave Carter’s side continued to dominate with Ridge and Wort forcing good saves from Gosney; the latter also running through and his effort cannoned off the near post on 82 minutes. But the hosts did make it two-nil with six left to play as a cross found George Barker and the attacker controlled the ball, before firing home in the last notable action of this tie.
The Royals have one opportunity for experimentation in their last pre-season friendly at East Cowes (IoW) on Saturday afternoon (July 29); their first competitive match of 2023-24 being a big FA Cup tie away versus Wells City on August 5. Their league season will start three days later with a home game against Hythe & Dibden at the Onsite Group Stadium.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Lee Wort attempts a low shot on target against his former club in Tuesday’s clash.