Royals consigned to tight Hamble cup final defeat

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER were dealt another episode of end-of-season heartbreak on Bank Holiday Monday as they faced Hamble Club in the Wessex League Cup Final; eventually falling two-nil versus their Southampton-based rivals despite having multiple opportunities throughout the nervous tie in front of over six-hundred fans at the On-Site Group Stadium.

The Royals began quicker under overcast skies and created a first attempt within five minutes through Harvey Hughes, who nodded over the crossbar from Harrison Brook at the right post. This was followed by neat openings for both Ryan Wilkins and Josh Benfield in quick succession; the Hamble keeper diving sharply to parry a further drive from the latter.

These missed opportunities were punished by Hamble when they took a big lead after seventeen minutes; a lightening counter-attack falling to Braydon Douglas and the striker easily converted with a fine finish. It should have been two-nil after twenty-six minutes as James Johnson linked up with Will Gange before powerfully drilling into the left side netting.

Another chance was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Steven Mowthorpe and a range of corners were hacked away from the Portchester backline, who started to run forward and get involved in their ‘attacking moves’. Conor Bailey and Kane O’Keefe were denied by Hamble’s goalkeeper Harry Newman, who successfully protected his clean sheet at the break.

Marley Ridge was substituted onto the pitch and nearly made the immediate impact as he featured in some great build-up play with Wilkins before breaking through; Newman coming out to smother this effort after 47 minutes. Brook further benefited from a threaded ball but could only fire his drive straight at the Hamble keeper despite having a better option.

Substitutions followed for both sides after the hour as Hamble steadily pushed for a ‘killer’ second goal; Charlie Rattley curling just wide of the far right and Douglas narrowly skidding over the bar under pressure. Down the other end Archie Wilcox lashed a shot wide from an angle, whilst Scott Jones narrowly misjudged his diving attempt inches over the bar.

The match was ‘decided’ after seventy-nine minutes when Hamble broke forward into space and won a penalty as their attacker was tugged inside the box; Clayd Roach stepping up and converting past Mowthorpe for 2-0. And this is how it stayed at the final whistle with Portchester dominating the possession, but were unable to set up a frantic finale late on.

Victory means that Hamble could complete a ‘knock-out double’ as they remain in the Russell Cotes Competition going into the latter stages but they will have to wait for their future opponents. For Portchester they will be looking to bounce back as they will contest the ‘Hampshire Senior Cup’ Final on Friday night where they will face AFC Totton in Aldershot.

PICTURED BY NATHAN LIPSHAM: Portchester attacker looks to ‘track backwards’ as Hamble defender stands in way.