Portchester see red in Alton victory

By Connor Steel / Photograph by Daniel Haswell

PORTCHESTER’S joy on the road continued in midweek as they clinched a 2-0 victory over newly promoted Alton in the Wessex League Premier on Tuesday night.

But the scoreline doesn’t reflect the whole game as the away team scored a quickfire double before three red cards from the same incident changed the overall play, only adding to the drama for the 177 fans at the Anstey Lane Enclosure.

On a humid evening it was Portchester who started the better as they nearly took the lead after three minutes when Keiron Roberts and Lee Wort linked up, with the latter’s shot from an angle hitting the far post and bouncing to safety to be cleared away.  But Alton were not to be underestimated as they saw Matt Benham’s effort saved by away keeper Steven Mowthorpe while Luke Perkins headed over from close range at a corner in a frantic opening 15 minutes

Although this attacking momentum was halted as Alton’s Scott Sanderson went down after a tackle to be replaced by substitute Dylan Riley after 20 minutes, this didn’t mean no chances were being created. Left back Matt Graham flashed a cross wide for the home side and Liam Knight attempted a specular back-kicked effort that looped over the bar, while Alton keeper Kieron Greene brilliantly saved an effort from Keiron Roberts before the striker fired wide on 29 minutes with a low drive.

Fans in the stadium were expecting a quick goal, which came just after the half-hour mark as Portchester took the lead. Some brilliant play around the penalty area found Wort in space with the striker calmly squared the ball to George Barker who finished comfortably from six yards. It was 2-0 on 39 minutes as right back George Colson beat his marker and crossed into Wort, who scored for the fourth game in succession as he doubled the away lead.

There were no further goals in the first half but there was no shortage of drama. On 43 minutes a misjudged tackle sent sparks flying and this resulted in a mass melee involving both sides, with huge issues to sort once it all calmed down. After discussions with his linesman, the referee showed a total of three red cards, sending off Luke Perkins for Alton alongside Owen Roundell and Jake Rain for the visitors much to shock in the crowd. After this process had concluded, the referee blew for the HT break with Portchester winning 2-0 after a clinical attacking display.

Boosted by their numerical advantage and arguably words from their manager, Alton came out firing after the interval as both Rob Carr and Stuart Green came close in a matter of minutes. However their best chance came on 52 minutes as a cross was played into the corridor of uncertainty, Mowthorpe saving a wishful flicked effort by Oli Page with the net expected to bulge. Portchester defender Sam Pearce was then booked for a niggly fowl on 59 minutes as the visitors sought to keep their hosts at bay.

This was a task that Portchester seemed to take into their stride, with their nine men defending brilliantly and employed a high pressure tactic to rush Alton attackers. Led by substitute Zak Sharp, who came off the bench at the break, it seemed that every second ball and cross into the box was won by the visitors as they continued to stifle hopes of a brilliant comeback from the home side. Even the addition of fresh legs couldn’t affect the arguable Portchester control, although Steve Black fired wide within minutes of replacing Benham with a quarter left to play.

Heroic defending from the visitors meant that attacking play was limited in the second half, but this did not stop Portchester looking dangerous on the counter attack as they almost scored a third with four minutes left. From an Alton corner the ball was played forward to Wort who found his way forward, but sadly his pass to the advancing midfielder was intercepted. Ultimately this missed chance didn’t matter as the Royals had already done the damage in the first half, with the referee blowing the final whistle much to the relief of both sets of players who had truly given their all in a brilliant show of heart and desire.

Following this win and other Wessex League Premier results on Tuesday evening, Portchester have moved up to eleventh in the table with five games played. It also marks the third victory in the last week, which will please manager Dave Carter who set a target number of points after defeat to Brockenhurst on Bank Holiday weekend. The Royals’ attention will now turn to cup action at the On-Site Group Stadium as they host Romsey Town in the FA Vase on Saturday afternoon. Three days later on Tuesday evening Portchester entertain Laverstock and Ford in the Wessex League Cup, before league games versus AFC Stoneham and Horndean to round up a busy September month.