By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER started their 2023/24 league campaign in comfortable style as they hosted Laverstock & Ford at the On-Site Group Stadium on Saturday afternoon; the promotion favourites sealing a two-nil home win under overcast but warm skies with both of their goals coming from a ‘professional’ first half display watched by over two hundred fans.
The Royals started brightly on a slick passing surface with the first opportunity arriving after four minutes; Josh Benfield spinning into space and feeding Lee Wort who had his shot saved by the Laverstock keeper Lewis Gunstone-Grey. But the hosts did score moments later when a free-kick was quickly floated into Wort who beat his marker and sliced home.
Dave Carter’s team believed they had doubled this lead on the twenty minute mark after fine incisive play found its way towards Wort who calmly sidefooted home; only to see his celebration cut short by the offside flag. Down the other end a good ball threaded the defence to reach Russ Jones, but the winger dragged harmlessly past the post from an angle.
Laverstock used this chance as impetus to push forward and saw multiple corners that failed to test the stubborn home backline; the visitor’s only real chance before the interval coming as Chae Sykes brushed the far netting. And this was suddenly punished when James Cowan collected a ball in midfield before chipping the goalkeeper deep in added time.
Proceedings were slightly slower upon the restart with Laverstock absorbing all home possession and trying to counter attack on every opportunity; Sykes seeing his effort blocked by the outrushing Steven Mowthorpe. The away side were however causing their own issues in defence as they failed to clear a corner; Benfield’s drive going wide off the keeper.
Substitutions soon followed across both teams just after the hour mark as Portchester looked for more goals; Wort and Marley Ridge missing the target with similar shots in fast succession. This control saw frustration increase amongst the away players and lead to a series of niggly fouls across the pitch; the referee reacting well to reduce any confrontation.
Portchester survived a potential scare on seventy-six minutes when Adam Bourner headed wide a corner that seemed to catch out the home defence; the hosts quickly regaining forward momentum with further chances. But the score-line stayed two-nil at the end due to the effort of Gunstone-Grey; the keeper denying Wort thrice alongside Harrison Brook.
The home success follows a two-one FA Cup victory against Wells City last weekend and means that Portchester have an one-hundred percent record so far but face a hectic week of action starting with an away trip to Hamble on Tuesday night. They will further travel to Tadley Calleva in the FA Cup next weekend, before visiting Fawley just three days later.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Players across both teams surround the referee in second half flare-up after fouls.