By Connor Steel
HORNDEAN FC strengthened their ongoing silverware hopes as they guaranteed a place in the Portsmouth Senior Cup final later this month; sealing a comfortable two-nil victory against league rivals AFC Portchester in a watchable semi-final clash at Five Heads Park on Tuesday evening and extending a fine winning streak.
In drizzly conditions it was Portchester who started brighter as they created the opening chance within seven minutes when Harrison Brook dragged wide from distance; the home side responding down the other end as Connor Duffin saw his snapshot saved by visiting keeper Steven Mowthorpe following good patient interplay.
Dave Carter’s team continued to look threatening and saw Liam Robinson fire wide after twenty-two minutes; this squandered opportunity proving costly as Horndean took an early lead just fifty seconds later. It came as Ethan Gee found space and advanced towards goal before finding Duffin; who side-footed home into the net.
The opener seemed to switch momentum in Horndean’s favour as Gee had a low effort saved by Mowthorpe before Harry Jackson nodded wide a fine cross from the left wing; Portchester hitting their hosts on the break after 34 minutes when Scott Jones linked up with Conor Bailey before dragging over the bar under pressure.
In truth however Horndean should have extended their advantages further before the half time break; James Crane having a shot blocked at source and Tom Jeffes firing wide in quick succession. The hosts further had the ball in the net as Tommy Tierney slammed home from an angle, only for an offside call to end the cheers.
Home dominance continued after the restart with Duffin unlucky not to double this tally on fifty-three minutes; collecting a pass from Fuzz Kanjanda and seeing his powerful drive saved well by Mowthorpe. Another good chance fell the way of Jackson moments later as he cut inside, but his skidded shot landed wide of the post.
But Portchester began to slowly string together some possession and this gave them their platform to create three great chances either side of the hour; the first coming when Curt Da Costa headed wide from a corner. This was followed by Jones nodding over a whipped cross on sixty minutes and Brook placing his drive wide.
Substitutions across both teams looked to signal a slight lull with the Royals seeing the next opening after 68 minutes; Brett Pitman linking up alongside Cowan before dragging wide of the far left corner. Down the other end Horndean saw Kanjanda rocket over the crossbar and Tommy Scutt’s low shot brushed the side netting.
This match passed the eighty minute mark without incident as Portchester appeared to increase their tempo; executing multiple waves of attack that were cut out by a well organised defence. And the game was finished with a flourish as the hosts made it 2-0 with minutes left; Rudi Blankson cutting inside and easily firing home.
Victory means Michael Birmingham’s league winners have the chance to add a knockout cup to a successful season; the finale tie taking place versus Fareham Town at Fratton Park on May 16. In contrast Portchester’s long campaign has finished until pre-season and an important summer lies ahead in their hope of promotion.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HANWELL: Players from both sides clash for loose midfield ball; Horndean winning this derby semi final two-nil at Five Heads Park to set up mouth-watering cup final tie versus Fareham Town.