PORTCHESTER paid a heavy penalty for missing multiple chances as they exited the FA Cup in a midweek replay played in front of 292 supporters at the On-Site Group Stadium, losing 3-1 to Southampton-based Blackfield & Langley on a dry, humid evening.
Despite the scoreline it was an even and end-to-end cup tie. But the visitors were simply more clinical in a match that saw two spot kicks and arguably deserved the victory after their 1-1 draw three days earlier.
With their home crowd behind them, Portchester started well with Keiron Roberts’ shot dragging wide within the opening moments. Good spells of possession further saw strike partner Lamin Jatta fire over the crossbar twice in five minutes as the Royals pushed for an opener but ultimately couldn’t test the visiting goalkeeper Amadeusz Skrzyniarz in a dominant opening 15 minutes.
Absorbing this early pressure Blackfield & Langley played themselves into the game and saw the first shots on target in the ninety minutes; captain Fatah Makhloufi and Flavio Tavarez seeing efforts blocked by a stubborn defensive partnership led by Sam Pearce. But there was nothing the Royals’ backline could do about a crazy five minutes that saw the visitors score twice in four minutes, with the first coming on 21 minutes; a whipped cross from Fawzi Saadi found Harvey-Joe Bertrand unmarked, with the defender heading into the corner from close range.
It was two-nil just moments later as Saadi was again involved as he ran unmarked into the area. A low shot was driven towards goal by Luke Gray, with Steven Mowthorpe parrying his effort into the direction of the attacker who simply tapped home the rebound from six yards. But instead of crumbling after this double blow, Portchester immediately went on the attack and won a penalty on 28 minutes as Lamin Jatta was fouled by Jacob Woods in the penalty area. Up stepped Keiron Roberts who send the B&L keeper the wrong way into the corner, reducing the arrears with an hour left to play.
The final 15 minutes of the first half were fairly even as both sides had chances to score. For the visitors, Harry Cooper fired wide and Ali Zintany went close in quick successions. Down the other end Portchester should have equalised when Roberts’ low effort was brilliantly saved by Skryniarz and the rebound by youngster Marley Ridge was blocked by a defender who diverted away to safety. This was the last opportunity of the half as B&L led two-nil, the game still in the balance as the home floodlights began to take full control.
It was a fairly slow start to the second half as both teams cancelled each other out, but this all changed on 55 minutes when Portchester were awarded their second penalty of the evening. It came as good work down the left side saw a B&L defender block the ball, an action that was deemed a handball by the referee. But with expectant fans behind the goal Keiron Roberts’ spot kick was well saved by the away keeper, who was mobbed by his teammates as he kept his side ahead and scores unchanged.
This penalty miss was a key chance to equalise and switched momentum to the visitors who scored a third as a pass found Ali Zintany; whose effort from range beat Portchester keeper Steven Mowthorpe at his far post via the underside of the crossbar to give B&L their 3-1 lead. Many would argue that this didn’t reflect the game itself, but in football you have to take your opportunities; which was the biggest difference between the sides as the game hit the hour mark.
Portchester made two substitutions at varying points as captain Steve Ramsey and dangerman Lamin Jatta were replaced by Joe Briggs and Olly Searle respectively with league games upcoming. Fresh legs didn’t seem to change the flow of the game as B&L absorbed all the home pressure without issues, slowing the game down to a walking pace at times given their two-goal lead. There was only one real opportunity for the Royals to reduce the arrears on 81 minutes when Marley Ridge’s volley was cleared off the line by a covering defender. But Portchester’s hopes of extra time were over when the referee blew the final whistle with the score 3-1 to Blackfield & Langley.
The Southampton-based outfit will now play Dorset-based Wimborne Town at Gang Warily on September 4 after this clinical display of finishing that sealed progress to the 1st Qualifying Round. For Portchester they will now look to bounce back with a series of Wessex League games, including the now scheduled trip to Bournemouth Poppies on 04/09. But first the Royals host Brockenhurst on Saturday afternoon at the On-Site Group Stadium, before hosting Infinity FC in the Hampshire Senior Cup three days later to complete the month of August.