By Connor Steel
ROMSEY TOWN FC suffered preliminary round heartbreak on Tuesday evening as they exited the regional Hampshire Senior Cup against Fareham Town, who scored their winner through Keiron Clark with just three minutes left against their stubborn Wessex League Division One opponents. But in truth it was an uneventful match played in humid Southampton conditions with the temperature topping twenty-five degrees, the match nearly being abandoned in the second half due to a floodlight failure with the stadium plunged into darkness.
The hosts started well in front of a crowd of 152 supporters as they looked to cause an early upset; debutant Nick Watts driving wide from range amongst a series of corners as Fareham defenders stood firm in the first fifteen minutes. Both sides were struggling to maintain spells of possession and were running hard, whilst a dry surface made it difficult to control the ball as it bounced around; the next chance coming for the visiting team with a curling effort from Casey Bartlett-Scott going inches wide of the far post on twenty-two minutes.
Tom Settle was booked for a misjudged tackle on 26 minutes with Romsey continuing to frustrate their higher league Creeksiders, Bradley Strickland looking good in possession and drove his angled effort straight at the away keeper Luke Deacon from just inside the area. Keiron Hancock and Alexander Wilson also went close in quick succession before Marvin Rogers saw his powerful snapshot effort brilliantly saved by home keeper Lewis Dumper just before the interval; the referee ending a cagey forty-five minutes with the scores goalless.
The second half began with a yellow card for Romsey after a late foul, Fareham dominating the possession but failing to convert this into any meaningful chances until Pete Stiles made three substitutions. Two nearly linked up as Charlie Cooper fed Connor Underhill who fired wide under pressure on 57 minutes; Clark soon smashing the woodwork just after the hour with a powerful effort following good wing-play. Another chance coming on 71 minutes as Jack Breed’s precise driven effort was stopped by the scrambling legs of Dumper.
Following another Fareham chance through Underhill came a moment of concern as the floodlights flickered off and the ground was plunged into darkness for 7 minutes. But play restarted quickly despite a huge risk of abandonment and the extra minutes proved crucial as the visitors snatched victory in the last attack. A throw-in was flicked on into Underhill whose shot caused pinball in the area, Clark reacting quickest to poke home the winner underneath the outrushing keeper to spark various emotions with the dreaded shootout avoided.
Despite defeat Romsey need credit for their performance and deserved more than late heartbreak, their next attentions turning to league action on Saturday afternoon. For Fareham they progress to play Alton FC in the next round on August 23 at Cams Alders after 3 successes wins, with two matches versus Brockenhurst and Blackfield & Langley to cup in-between. And in a final twist the two teams will meet again over Bank Holiday weekend at Fareham in the FA Vase competition as Romsey seek some measure of revenge for this defeat.
PICTURED BY KEN WALKER: Fareham attack corner in narrow away victory versus Romsey on Tuesday, scoring in the final seconds as they progress to the first round of Hampshire Senior Cup action under humid skies.