But they will no doubt be the happier side after a tough afternoon away at Five Heads Park. Captain Steve Ramsey was shown red in just the second minute and Horndean couldn’t take advantage of the extra man in front of their home crowd, the Royals showing gritty determination to stretch their own unbeaten run to three games since October 9.
In dry but overcast conditions, Horndean started well as they sought a seventh straight league win despite their midweek cup trashing versus Fareham. They were straight on the front foot with a passing move resulted in a shot from Zackary Willett which flew harmlessly over from range, before the game changed after just 88 seconds. As Portchester tried to win back possession in midfield, Ramsey saw himself lunge into Alfie Lis just inside his own half, a misjudged tackle that saw him sent for an early bath by referee Jordan McRitchie as he brandished the red card from his pocket.
This sudden disadvantage saw Portchester change their tactics, looking to sit back and absorb the home pressure before hitting on the counter attack. It was a ploy that slowed the game down after the opening minutes and this dragged through the majority of a low-key first half; although there was half chances for both sides. On 12 minutes Tommy Tierney saw his low effort saved by Steve Mowthorpe down the middle and Liam Kimber’s looped cross narrowly evading the head of Connor Duffin at the back post ten minutes later as the hosts struggled to break through.
And even when they did find space between the Royals’ defence on 36 minutes, Willett placed his effort inches wide of the far post with his curling effort from an angle; a poor finish that really should have been scored by the in-form attacker. But it wasn’t all one-way traffic as George Colson’s cross was met by Ryan Pennery at the near post on 38’ but saw his effort cleared to safety, before defender Sam Pearce headed over a free kick that resulted in Duffin getting booked in the final minutes of a cagey opening 45 minutes after the early red card.
Proceedings continued in cagey fashion when the second period began, Colson seeing yellow for a tug on Lis before the Horndean attacker was substituted for Luke Dempsey on 50 minutes. Portchester also brought on Joe Briggs for Pennery to solidify the midfield, although fresh legs saw the visitors create their best chance on 57 minutes. A long diagonal cross field pass found Briggs in space down the left channel, but with the goal gaping sent his low angled shot wide of the home goalkeeper Cameron Scott at his far post from twelve yards out.
Down the other end on 63 minutes the Portchester goalkeeper Mowthorpe pulled off a brilliant save that social media channels classed as ‘good as a goal’. Willett found space down the wing and advanced towards the by-line, picking out Duffin on the penalty spot and the striker’s effort was tipped round the post for a corner with home fans seemingly celebrating prematurely. Dempsey then saw an effort blocked by a sliding tackle from Sam Pearce whilst Jake Raine joined others in the books as he made a late tackle on 68 minutes.
Horndean continued to huff and puff trying to break down a brilliantly organised Portchester defence, only succeeding in creating half chances in the final 20 minutes of play. Duffin found a pocket of space outside the box but saw his effort drift harmlessly wide before Kimber fired a low drive straight at the ever-consistent away goalkeeper. On 88 minutes a half chance from Adam Tommaso from a corner was miscued for the visitors, although their main priority was to keep a clean sheet to gain at least a point; a mission that succeeded due to hard work and gutsy displays in defence as Portchester endured three minutes of additional time before the referee ended the game.
The point means Horndean sit third in the Wessex League with just one defeat from eleven games, with Alton at home and Cowes Sport next weekend as they look to catch top-of-the-league Brockenhurst with matches in hand. 14th place Portchester will play United Services Portsmouth at the On-Site Group Stadium on Tuesday night before travelling to Blackfield & Langley next weekend; their third game against their Southampton based opponents this campaign following earlier FA Cup clashes in September. Their rearranged home tie versus Infinity will now be played on November 9 after this week’s cancellation, while they have been drawn at home versus Gosport Borough two weeks later in the Portsmouth Senior Cup competition.