By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER failed to maintain their recent winning streak as they travelled to Laverstock & Ford on Saturday afternoon in the Wessex League; eventually losing three-two to their mid-table opponents in this entertaining and hard-fought encounter at the ‘Dell’ despite plummeting temperatures and lengthy fog patches throughout the ninety minutes.
But the visitors began brightly despite these difficult conditions and created their first chance after four minutes through Marley Ridge; the midfielder slicing wide from George Barker’s pass. And they went even closer moments later when a long ball was again collected by Ridge before he dragged over the crossbar; Lee Wort further having his effort blocked.
Dave Carter’s team were rewarded for their dominance on twenty-one minutes as Issy Kaba opened the scoring with a calm finish; Wort seeing a shot saved by home keeper Dan Blackburn at the left post. And the Royals were punished in the 29th minute when Laverstock levelled; Adam Bourner marking his three-hundredth club game with a powerful drive.
Laverstock were suddenly in control of the match before half time and saw Carson Arnold fire over the bar, before Jake Watkins had a drive saved by Steven Mowthorpe. Pressure finally told on thirty-nine minutes as the hosts took the lead following a quick passing move that found Archie Lovegrove; the midfielder cutting inside and curling inside the corner.
The home momentum continued upon the second half resumption with Laverstock making it three-one after 47 minutes on the counter attack; Lovegrove adding his second with a low effort that beat Mowthorpe via a ‘slight’ deflection. Down the other end Connor Bailey fired over the bar before Barker saw the ball in the goal; the offside flag then being raised.
Mowthorpe then kept his side in contention on fifty-six minutes as he denied both Chae Sykes and Dom Jackson in the same move; one goalkeeping clearance reaching Wort who saw his drive narrowly over after beating Blackburn. Many substitutions then followed across both teams before Josh Benfield halved the arrears; calmly firing into the net for 3-2.
The last twenty minutes were quiet in comparison and there was no attacking success under ever lingering fog with the natural light rapidly fading; Portchester dominating the ball but struggling to break through. One big chance came in the 79th minute when Archie Wilcox headed against the crossbar but it was not enough to rescue the visitors in a rare loss.
Victories for both Stoneham and Shaftesbury leave Portchester seven points off the “top spot” with Moneyfields able to catch up having played less matches; the Portsmouth-based team seeing their match abandoned. The Royals will look to bounce back strongly with huge local ties; first travelling to Gosport on Wednesday night before then hosting Baffins.
PICTURED BY NATHAN LIPSHAM: Laverstock prevent Portchester from scoring in previous game in late March 2023.