By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER stretched their unbeaten run to eleven matches across all competitions following a two-nil success versus Amesbury Town with a professional away performance on Tuesday night. In a game dominated by visiting opponents at Bonneymead Park, goals from Rafa Ramos and Marley Ridge sealed the points in chilly but dry conditions; leapfrogging Moneyfields in the Wessex League Premier standings after winning this rearranged fixture from late 2021.
Portchester made an attacking start on a bouncy and heavy pitch surface, creating their first chance in the fifth minute as Steve Ramsey’s effort was saved well by the Amesbury goalkeeper Nathaniel Taylor. In response the home side created two quickfire chances from Josh Carey that were unable to test visiting goalie Steven Mowthorpe, who suffered a knock after colliding with an attacker on eleven minutes leading to stoppages whilst he was treated.
On the quarter hour Portchester had their second opportunity as Olly Searle’s deep cross found Ramos, but sadly the in-form striker couldn’t convert as he couldn’t direct his header on target. Sixty seconds later Bradley Lethbridge fired wide under pressure from an angle, whilst Lee Wort dragged a shot over the crossbar; Amesbury’s defence standing firm to deny any further chances until just after the half hour mark of proceedings.
The Royals should have scored after thirty-three minutes from a corner, which was fumbled in a mix-up from the Amesbury keeper; the ball falling to Curt Da Costa who had his looping header cleared off the line by a home defender. Five minutes later some great interplay helped the ball find Jake Raine just outside the penalty area, but his twenty-five yarder drifted harmlessly over the crossbar and behind the goal much to away frustration.
And in their final action before half-time Portchester went even closer to scoring as Sam Pearce saw a header blocked off the line by a home defender, whilst Wort’s low effort on the rebound was saved down low by the keeper. Down the other end Amesbury did have a couple of corners that were dealt with comfortably by the away defence in a calm and composed manner, the officials blowing for the interval shortly afterwards.
Similarly to the first, Portchester came out firing after the break and again went close on 50 minutes as Lethbridge made a good run and played a cross into the area; finding Wort whose half-volley was brilliantly saved by Taylor between the home sticks. Moments later Ridge had his first opening of the night as he fired wide from just inside the penalty area, Dave Carter swapping Ramsey off for George Barker in response off the bench.
And this change seemed to have an immediate impact as Portchester finally broke through on fifty seven minutes with their next attack, although there was an element of luck to the build-up. A cross into the box was deflected to Ramos’ feet inside the penalty area, the striker beating two defenders with fancy footwork before firing home into the bottom corner with an acute finish to spark relieved celebrations in the away contingent.
Substitutions for Amesbury meant a slight lull in attacking play before the Royals made it two-nil on 67 minutes through a great team goal that started in defence, working its way forward to find Ridge and Barker. The two linked up with a brilliantly worked one-two that allowed space for the former to smash home past the diving Amesbury keeper, whilst a third goal was ultimately disallowed for offside in the seventy-first minute after a fine move.
The final twenty minutes were very quiet in comparison as Portchester made two changes with Zak Sharp and Harvey Aston coming off the bench, the game already drifting to its natural conclusion in cold Wiltshire conditions. Wort did however go close with a header from the right, whilst Amesbury also saw a free-kick opportunity wasted as Alexander Noone fired over from 25 yards; the Royals holding on for the three points and clean sheet.
The victory has moved the Royals up to eighth in the table having played 26 games this campaign as they overtake Moneyfields, but their Portsmouth-based rivals have games in hand on Dave Carter’s side. Portchester will now play three times in the next ten days in a busy fortnight, which starts versus Bashley on Saturday afternoon at the On-Site Group Stadium. They will then travel away to Alresford Town next Tuesday night before returning home four days later to host Christchurch; a period that could define their campaign going into the last eleven matches of the league season.
PICTURED BY TOTALHOOFBALL: Portchester prepare for battle on cold and chilly evening away in Wiltshire, but this didn’t stop them from winning the game to climb up the league standings.