Royals earn emotional late Hamble victory

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER sealed a brilliant comeback success on Saturday afternoon as they beat Hamble Club three-two at The Abbey; scoring twice in the final minutes to maintain their Wessex League promotion dream in an emotional encounter with the side further paying tribute to Mason Peddle who sadly died last weekend.

An impeccable silence was held before the kick-off and it was the visitors who began quickly with an opening chance in four minutes; Marley Ridge advancing through the midfield and dragging wide of the near left post before Brett Pitman narrowly missed a floated cross from Charlie Williamson after just seven minutes of play.

The away team continued their early dominance as they created another big opportunity on the quarter hour mark as Marley Ridge broke into space and saw a chipped shot denied well by Henry Newman; the Hamble goalkeeper also stopping a fiercely struck drive from striker Scott Jones after neat passing down both flanks.

Surprisingly it was Hamble who took the lead after twenty-seven minutes as a deep set-piece was fired in at the back post from captain Matt Casey; a home advantage that was doubled just moments later when Bailey Honeysett calmly slotted home past away keeper Steven Mowthorpe to stun the large Portchester following.

The Royals tried to respond before the interval with a low effort from Jones parried away by Newman as both Pitman and Steve Ramsey saw shots wide of either post; the counter attacking play of Hamble nearly paying dividends in added time as Will Grange saw his long run halted by a good tackle with other options available.

Dave Carter’s team came out firing in the second half and reduced their two goal arrears within nine minutes of the restart through Williamson, who cut inside three defensive tackles and finished into the corner. And the Royals were nearly level before the hour with a header cleared off the line and Pitman dragging inches wide.

These squandered chances looked to spark Hamble back into life as they had a longer period of possession; giving them confidence to restore their two goal advantage as Mitch Byrne and Clayd Roach saw their efforts saved by Mowthorpe before substitutions across both sides seemed to calm down any attacking momentum.

Portchester kept pushing however and had a brilliant opportunity to level after seventy-six minutes as Pitman saw his curling free-kick tipped away by Newman with Harrison Brook narrowly missing the loose rebound at close range; time quickly running out for the away team as they struggled to break down a stubborn defence.

An equaliser finally arrived on eighty-eight minutes when a fine delivery was played into the penalty area and was gratefully headed home by Jones at the back post for two-all. And a comeback was completed deep into added time when Pitman controlled a pass before placing past Newman from an angle; sealing an away win.

These three points mean that Portchester remain 5 points clear of Horndean and Stoneham; who each have matches in hand on the league leaders going into a crucial final week. The Royals’ last game of the 2022-23 season will see them play Bemerton Heath on April 25; with the pressures now on their rivals in the title race.

PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Scott Jones launches himself at deep cross in the eighty-ninth minute of match against Hamble on Saturday; the team winning three-two to complete an unforgettable away success.