By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER continued their perfect opening to the Wessex League Premier campaign on Tuesday evening as they travelled across to neighbouring Portsmouth, winning three-two against rivals Baffins Milton Rovers in a midweek postcode derby at the PMC Stadium. And for the second game in succession it took a late winner to seal all three points for Dave Carter’s side in occasionally heavy rain, which make life difficult for players in a topsy-turfy encounter as the Royals overcame a spirited home display throughout the night.
Baffins started the better as they adjusted quicker to a brilliant passing pitch given earlier rain, creating their first chance after twelve minutes as Harvey Wellham fed Charlie Oakwell whose cross was headed just wide from the onrushing Tom Vincent. Two minutes later home captain Jason Parish was booked for his challenge on the half-way line; the resulting Portchester free kick floated into the area and deflected kindly into the path of Brett Pitman to shoot over after spinning his marker with a burst of good pace and skill from 18 yards out.
The hosts created another huge opportunity as Miles Everett drove forward and fed Vincent into space to fire inches wide across goal. Down the other end Marley Ridge curled wide on 22 minutes with home goalkeeper Roux Hardcastle making a sharp low save moments later from Liam Robinson’s longer range effort. Harrison Brook then saw his ambitious shot deflected out and Ryan Wilkins saw a powerful header cleared away from the resulting corner, the scores goalless after a watchable and even thirty minutes as light rain drizzle began.
But it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken as Baffins took the lead on thirty-four minutes, Rob Evans running down the right side and playing his deep out-swinging cross in the box from nearby the corner flag to find Vincent who guided home a header past away keeper Steven Mowthorpe. In response Portchester saw a variety of half-chances to equalise before the break as Pitman’s header was saved, Ridge fired over from a distance and James Cowan forcing Hardcastle into another sharp stop; the visitors trailing 1-0 at the interval.
Attacking momentums continued into the second half as Wilkins drove wide towards the far side netting and Ridge volleyed over the crossbar for the visitors; who got their equaliser after Oakwell had gone close down the other end with a goal-bound header that was cleared away. It came as a looping cross from Jake Raine was headed downwards and then fell loose to reach an onrushing Brook, who calmly swept home his timed angled effort inside the bottom right corner to equalise on fifty-eight minutes; sparking a relieved celebration.
Kelvin Robinson saw another Baffins’ chance after the hour mark as his shot was gathered by Mowthorpe at the second attempt, whilst Hardcastle denied Brook’s low effort after cutting inside down the right wing on 66 minutes. Another goal arrived just sixty seconds later for Portchester as they won a free kick that was floated inside the crowded penalty area, Sam Pearce rising highest to nod home past a backtracking keeper into the middle of the goal; substitutes for both teams coming immediately after the breakthrough for the visiting side.
One of these changes made an immediate impact as the hosts levelled on 76 minutes with Vincent collecting an inside pass from substitute Alpay Ali, making no mistake in his composed finish underneath an outrushing Mowthorpe into the corner. However Baffins were ultimately unable to hold off the reignited away players as Pitman saw his shot saved by Hardcastle, the same striker scoring a late winner on eighty-six minutes as he headed home a free kick into the near post for three-two; Portchester holding firm for another fighting victory.
Dave Carter’s team remain second in the table with five victories from their opening five games in a perfect start; sitting behind current leaders Bemerton Heath Harlequins on goal difference. Both these teams will be facing each other in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday afternoon with a 3pm kick-off at the On-Site Group Stadium; with one or both sides guaranteed to lose their first points of the new campaign. Games against AFC Totton and Alresford Town then follow by September 17 before the FA Vase kicks off seven days later.
PICTURED BY BAFFINS MILTON ROVERS TWITTER: Home striker prepares an acrobatic effort against the Royals, who come out on top with three-two victory in local postcode derby in Portsmouth last night.