By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER surrendered their perfect home streak in the league so far this season as they hosted their high-flying opponents AFC Stoneham on Saturday afternoon; eventually falling two-nil following this “tough-fought” match in front of nearly four hundred supporters at the On-Site Group Stadium despite lengthy rain downpours and gusty winds.
The hosts adapted quicker to a bobbly but playable surface and created their first opportunity after seven minutes from a recycled free-kick; Connor Bailey slashing his shot wide of the right post. This was soon followed by Lee Wort seeing his effort blocked at source and Archie Wilcox nodding over the crossbar as a deep delivery fell kindly into his direction.
Stoneham absorbed the early pressure and steadily worked themselves into proceedings with patient possession; their 1st shot coming after twenty-two minutes as Owen Fee sliced wide from Alex Welch’s cross. In response Portchester’s dominances at corners nearly paid its dividends as Charlie Williamson’s shot was blocked and frantically cleared away.
And the Royals went even closer just after the half hour as Josh Benfield controlled an airborne pass before having his low drive saved by Stoneham’s Callum Lee; the visiting keeper denying Wort seconds later. Down the other end Lewis Nagle forced a brilliant diving save from Steven Mowthorpe as both teams appeared to settle for this goalless first half.
Proceedings started slowly upon the restart as midfield battles seemed to dominate under rain showers with the visiting side seeing the next chance on 49 minutes; Duarte Martins heading wide a cross from Ryan Cluett. But Portchester did use this scare as momentum as they went ever closer moments later; Wilcox collecting a good ball before lashing over.
Wort was then found through on goal just after the hour and tried to chip the effort over the outrushing keeper, the right defender recovering brilliantly to clear away from danger. And it got better for Stoneham as they took their lead after 65 minutes through Tyrell Sampson; the winger running onto a perfect ball and sending his drive past a diving Mowthorpe.
Substitutions followed across both teams as Portchester tried to respond immediately; their best chances coming when Ryan Wilkins volleyed over the crossbar at close range. Instead it was the away team who killed the tie off as a contest on eighty-six minutes when Martins converted a flicked cross at the back post before his side held on for a clean sheet.
Defeat means that Dave Carter’s side remain fourth in the Wessex Premier after fourteen games so far, and do remain four points off leaders Shaftesbury; particularly as many games was postponed due to poor weather. They will now be hoping to bounce back with the next league game on Tuesday night where they are due to play Bournemouth Poppies.
PICTURED BY NATHAN LIPSHAM: Home player attempts to win loose ball despite pressure from Stoneham defence.