Portland held by late Fareham equaliser

By Connor Steel

FAREHAM TOWN ended their six game losing streak in the Wessex Premier on Saturday afternoon as they drew three-all with mid-table rivals Portland United on the South Coast; fighting back to level on three separate occasions at the Camp & Satherley Stadium. In windy but dry conditions it was a much improved performance from the Creeksiders in a thrilling encounter despite the fact they didn’t seal all three points, showing heart and grit when low on confidence to remain ahead of their opponents in the table.

Portland adapted quicker to home advantage as they scored with their first attack on five minutes, Matty Burrows winning the ball off a defender and playing his cross towards Greg Borthwick who made no mistake in slotting past away keeper Henry Woodcock into the corner. In response visiting Fareham created their maiden opportunity moments later as good play found Jack Breed who hit the post with his effort; whilst Ryan McKenchie forced an outstanding save down the other end following incisive football from the hosts on fourteen minutes in an even flurry of opportunities for both teams.

Following this attacking start proceedings quietened down into a pattern where Portland dominated possession but were unable to break down the stubborn visitors, who saw the next opportunity as a pass found Ben Rowthorn to blast over the crossbar on the half-hour. But the Creeksiders were level on 35 minutes as they won a free kick that was taken by Rowthorn, which was met by the rising Gary Moody to head home inside the bottom right corner to equalise; the referee turning down Portland appeals for a foul on the defender in the air as Fareham players celebrated in the corner.

Fareham were denied a penalty on 39 minutes as Charlie Cooper’s shot was charged down by the sliding Sam Poole for a corner which was headed over by Moody at the far post as another chance was wasted by the visitors. Down the other end Franklyn Clarke and Troy Walbridge linked up down the right side with some counter attacking play, the latter smashing the side netting with his angled shot after tucking inside; Fareham responding in stoppage time with an effort from Callum Benfield saved by home goalkeeper Mike Edgar.

Similar to the first half Portland scored in the opening five minutes after the restart as Burrows got the ball at his feet and unleased a brilliant finish inside the far corner to make it 2-1 to the hosts. But it didn’t seem to deter Fareham as they nearly equalised moments later as Benfield somehow saw a header wide from four yards following a cross, whilst Casey Bartlett-Scott rattled the crossbar on 56 minutes after two substitutions for the Creeksiders and Clarke fired inches over from an angle down the other end before the hour mark.

It was nearly three-one to Portland following a quiet spell void of any chances as Clarke’s pass into a crowded penalty area found Burrows who turned his defender with good footwork and fired wide with the goal gaping for his second. This was a miss that Fareham punished with fifteen minutes left to play when they equalised through Breed, who scooped a fine cut-back from Cooper across Edgar into the far corner as it bounced off the hard surface; whilst Tom Settle blazed over a free-kick from twenty-five yards with the goalkeeper scrambling to cover his far post as the ball rose over the wall.

Portland scored their third goal of the afternoon with five minutes left to play as the ball was worked into the path of Clarke whose cross found Burrows to convert on the half volley just inside the near post leaving Woodcock absolutely no shot. But Fareham never gave up and built up pressure around the Portland final third with some patient play, which allowed a free kick to be played down the centre to find Josh Benfield; the attacking running forward and chipping the ball into the corner of the net to seal a late point.

Fareham will no doubt be happier with the stalemate as it keeps them 14th in the Wessex League and maintains their four point gap over Portland in fifteenth with just a handful of games left to play this campaign. The Creeksiders will now host Cowes Sports at Cams Alders on Tuesday evening in a rearranged fixture from March, kicking off at the slightly earlier time of 7:30pm due to the travel arrangements of the visitors. They will then play Amesbury Town in their final home game of the 2021-22 campaign before ending the league season versus champions-elect Hamworthy United on Easter weekend, with these three games proving good warm-ups for the league cup final against Shaftesbury on April 30.

PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN MEDIA: Stunning views of Portland United stadium in blue sunshine as Fareham arrive for their Wessex Premier League encounter on the South Coast, which ended three-all.