AFC PORTCHESTER progressed to the FA Cup Preliminary Round following a classic local derby versus Portsmouth-based Horndean side on Saturday afternoon, with a hat-trick from recent signing Keiron Roberts following an early goal from Lee Wort securing a four-two victory against the Deans.
This win for the Royals marks their first knockout tie victory under manager Dave Carter whilst also opening their goal-scoring accounts for the 2021-22 campaign after a goalless draw versus Hamble Club in midweek.
With the FA Cup trophy in full view at the On-Site Group Stadium, it was Horndean who started brightly and should have scored after just two minutes. They won a free kick in a dangerous area around 25 yards out, with Ben Anderson’s effort brilliantly plucked out of the top corner by the hands of Royals keeper Leon Pitman for a corner. Down the other end Keiron Roberts saw Deans shot-stopper Cameron Scott off his line but saw his attempted lob from 20 yards catch the wind and was easily caught by the number one.
But Portchester kept pushing and did score on the very next foray forward as Connor Colson broke down the right and played a great cross into the penalty area, with hotshot striker Lee Wort rising the highest to nod into the corner past a stranded Horndean keeper. Minutes later it should have been two as Wort forced the away keeper into a mistake, but couldn’t convert the chance as the ball bounced off his foot and he couldn’t control as it rolled out for a goal kick.
Again the Royals weren’t made to rue missed opportunities as they made it 2-0 on fourteen minutes from a corner down the left. The delivery was brilliant and found Sam Pearce whose header was well saved by Cameron Scott, but fell kindly to Keiron Roberts who tapped home past a diving defender on the line. In response a shell-shocked Horndean stood firm in possession and saw some promising moves going forward with Anderson shooting wide, but lacked cutting edge until they reduced the arrears after 35 minutes.
Winger Tommy Tierney and full back Robbie Law combined down the left side of the home defence, with the latter’s cross finding the advancing Zac Willett to head into the corner. The away side were unlucky not to be level on 38 minutes as Connor Duffin shot straight at Portchester keeper Leon Pitman when well placed, with the rebound being cleared to safety off the feet of Ash Howes. This was a great chance to equalise and one that Horndean were made to regret as the Royals scored another two goals in four minutes just before the break.
It was 3-1 on 44 minutes when a long ball over the top caused chaos in the backline of Horndean; with Keiron Roberts taking advantage, rounding the keeper, and slotting expertly from an angle to score his second. The new Portchester striker quickly confirmed his hat-trick in additional time after earlier injuries when he smashed home an effort on the counter attack with his finish hitting the bottom corner, making it 4-1 at half-time and allowing fans to dream of the next FA Cup round.
Perhaps due to a half time rollicking from their manager Horndean came out firing after the break and immediately won a penalty on 48 minutes after a foul in the penalty area. Sam Pearce was booked for his late tackle and the spot kick was converted by Connor Duffin, who sent the Portchester keeper the wrong way and made it 4-2, reducing the arrears with 43 minutes left to play. Minutes later it could have been 4-3 as Horndean broke forward with pace and put the ball into the danger area, with Duffin forcing another brilliant save by Leon Pitman to his right side.
As the game reached the hour mark and both sides made substitutions, Horndean came even closer on 61 minutes as a corner led to a goalmouth scramble in the Portchester area. The ball fell kindly to away midfielder Louie Martin, whose effort smashed against the crossbar and was cleared to safety. Seven minutes later, a corner was dropped by home keeper Leon Pitman, with great defending by Conor Bailey on the line stopping a Horndean attacker from converting the loose ball home.
On 80 minutes Portchester were reduced to 10 men when Jake Raine was shown his second yellow card for a misjudged foul on the half way line. The referee has no hesitation in showing him off the pitch with 10 minutes left. This was followed by a series of set piece opportunities that were nervously cleared away with fans hoping their side could hold on and avoid a late spell of pressure from Horndean, now having a player more and looking dangerous.
Thankfully the home side then managed to calm their own anxiety by having a spell of half chances as Joe Briggs and sub striker Lamin Jatta going close, with the former’s effort whistling the post from the edge of the box. They also saw a late penalty appeal turned down and showed game management tactics to wind down the clock; effectively killing the game off as a contest and sealing a 4-2 win that knocks the Deans out of England’s most famous competition.
Portchester will now travel to Blackfield & Langley FC on August 21 to fight for a place in the first qualifying round, with BLFC winning five-one against Wessex League opponents Cowes Sports on Saturday afternoon. But before this FA Cup tie in two weeks, the Royals will play their first El-Creekio derby at home versus Fareham Town on the 17th. There will be no match next weekend as their league has odd teams this year with 21 sides, meaning it is the Royal’s time for a week off to prepare for two big games in four days.