Royals ease past youthful Sholing in county cup tie

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER extended their unbeaten run to eleven games in 2024 and advanced into the Russell Cotes Cup third round as they entertained Sholing on Tuesday evening; comfortably sealing a four-nil victory against their youthful higher league opponents four-nil with a professional performance in front of a small gate at the On-Site Group Stadium.

Both teams made multiple changes for this county cup tie and it was Portchester who started brighter; creating the first opportunity on six minutes when Liam Robinson fizzed his shot over the crossbar. Henry Martin was then threaded into space by the winger and fired wide of the left post under pressure, whilst John Benfield also went close with a low shot.

The early domination got a desired reward for the hosts as they scored an opener after twenty-four minutes; a passage of quick movement and passing allowing Robinson to fire low across away keeper Theo Widger. And the lead was then doubled before the half hour when a delivery was flicked into the path of Benfield, who made little errors in rifling home.

Chances continued for the Royals as Robinson hit the post from the angle and a powerfully hit effort from Ryan Wilkins almost deceived Widger via a skidding surface after forty-two minutes. The Sholing goalkeeper was forced into another diving save before the interval as Issiaga Kaba fired towards the far corner after excellently cutting inside down the left.

Sholing attempted to respond upon the restart and should have halved the arrears on 49 minutes when Sonny Hanson found space in midfield; his shot bouncing off Claude Da Costa who managed to smother the rebound. Ryan Harfield’s free kick was further saved by the home keeper from range before an effort by Benfield deflected just wide on the hour.

Dave Carter’s side reasserted control on proceedings with youngster Charley Brook narrowly lashing over the bar from an angle, whilst a long-distance shot by James Cowan was brilliantly saved by Widger at the right post. A quiet lull then developed due to substitutions before Harrison Brook and Benfield squandered fine chances to extend the ‘advantage’.

Portchester did make it three-nil with nine minutes left when Brook was found on the right hand side of the penalty area and fired towards goal; the ball rocketing into the corner off the woodwork. And this scoring was completed in stoppage time as Martin got the deserved goal for a solid performance; calmly finishing into the far corner of the net with a fourth.

The Royals are due to face a trip to Hythe & Dibden in the third round, which will be contested at a future date yet to be confirmed. Two huge games will now follow for Portchester as they return to “league action” for the next two weekends, first hosting Andover New Street this Saturday (24/02) before they soon entertain Portland United at home on March 3.

PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Portchester striker rifles his effort towards goal despite this effort of away defence.