Portchester form grows with Poppies win

By Connor Steel / Photograph by Daniel Haswell

AFC PORTCHESTER recorded their first victory of the new Wessex League season on the fourth time lucky, beating Bournemouth Poppies three-one on the South Coast.

It was a win that was arguably secured in the first half with two away goals at Victoria Park, before an even second period as the home side tried to gain something in front of just 64 spectators on a day dominated by other local events.

Following their long travels down to Dorset and traffic queues caused by the Bournemouth air show this weekend, it was surprisingly Portchester who started brilliantly and scored within the opening seven minutes of a sunny afternoon. Some good work found its way to George Colson out wide whose inviting cross was converted by Lee Wort, who headed home into the corner past home goalkeeper Harry Gravett.

Bournemouth Poppies then saw an effort from Sam Davies fly harmlessly over the crossbar before a corner was headed over by Lewis Chambers after 11 minutes in a mini-spell of attacking play. But in truth Portchester were in control of possession and nearly made it 2-0 after 20 minutes. Fantastic one-touch passing saw the ball land at the feet of Marley Ridge, whose effort had pace and curve on the volley but narrowly whistled past the post

Another big chance came on 27 minutes as skilful play from Keiron Roberts brought a long ball under control as the winger cut inside and beat the full back down the right. He then let fly and the ball looked to be going in, but skimmed the crossbar and went over for a goal kick. Minutes later corners for Portchester caused scrambles in the Bournemouth area with none of the away attackers able to convert the pinballing and frantic attempts to clear both set-piece deliveries.

Visiting pressure finally got its deserved reward as Portchester doubled their lead after 34 minutes as Sam Pearce played a ball over the top of a retreating Poppies’ defence to find George Barker through on goal. The striker took a touch and calmly finished past the goalkeeper into the corner from an angle, a goal that was perfectly timed with a Red Arrows fly past over the stadium from the Air Show nearby.

In the final 10 minutes of the first half Portchester should have made it three on at least two occasions. The first came on 39 minutes as captain Steve Ramsey’s free-kick delivery found Owen Roundell whose flicked header was simply the wrong side of the far post beating two defenders. In the final chance of the half Wort found himself rounding the keeper after creating space, finding Barker with a low pass across the box. But the third goal was denied by an outstanding save from the recovering Gravett, who blocked the shot with his legs and cleared the ball away in the same move as the referee blew his whistle for the interval.

Lamin Jatta came off the bench at the break to replace Wort, immediately scoring within minutes of the restart only to see his effort disallowed for offside. Down the other end Bournemouth saw their best chance of the game to that point as Sammi Garcia advanced down the wing and found Danny Hansford unmarked, but the striker shanked his shot wide of the post with the net expecting to bulge.  Pepe Smith then went close with a low effort but it was actually Portchester who scored the next goal as they made it 3-0 just after the hour mark.

It came from a quick free-kick routine from the training ground as the Poppies switched off with all of Ridge, Barker and Ramsey combining with a low cross being converted by Roberts at the far post. The away captain nearly made it 4-0 on 64 minutes as his side attempted to break into the box, with the ball bouncing into his path and his effort on the half volley dipped over the crossbar, while Jatta went close with a header following a cross down the right side.

Bournemouth pulled a goal back with approximately 21 minutes left at Victoria Park as they won a free kick just inside the Portchester half. The delivery, played deep inside the penalty area, was allowed to bounce towards the far post, with either Sam Pearce or Bournemouth’s Tyrone Carkett getting the final touch into the corner. Another similar move was well held by Portchester keeper Steven Mowthorpe as Bournemouth looked to pull themselves back,

In truth, the last 15 minutes were slightly tame as both sides seemed to preserve energy with warm temperatures rising in this open stadium on the seafront. The only real incident was that Sam Pearce was sent to the sin-bin for backchat to the referee. But the home side couldn’t take any advantage from their 10-minute numerical advantage as Portchester picked up all three points after a clinical first half performance.

Portchester’s latest win sees them rise up the table to 15th place in the Wessex League table, although they have played fewer games than the other teams around them. The Royals will now play Alton away from home on Tuesday evening in the league, before cup action returns to the On-Site Group Stadium next Saturday as Portchester host Romsey Town in the FA Vase. Manager Dave Carter will be hoping to win both games after a poor start to their season with just three victories from eight matches across all competitions this campaign.