After two disappointing warm up results versus Paulsgrove and US Portsmouth, AFC Portchester’s new manager Dave Carter may have wondered the huge job needed to achieve promotion next year to the Southern League after the 2019-21 campaigns was rendered null & void due to Covid-19. But instead a return to competitive action for AFC Portchester in the inaugural Hampshire FA Senior Invitational Cup has left him beaming with delight following three straight wins in the group stage, plus a walkover’ sent the Royals into the quarter finals. They will play Blackfield & Langley on Saturday 8th May, which will be held behind closed doors at the Crest Finance Stadium with a 3pm kick-off.
Their first match saw the Royals beat Folland Sports three-two away from home in a cracking encounter. Goals from Lamin Jatta and George Barker secured a two-nil lead for the visitors after last five minutes, before the Southampton based outfit launched a speculatar comeback before the half hour mark. A huge misjudgement from Bradley Snelling saw the ball drop off his arm into the net for an own goal, before Folland striker Clayd Roach then levelled the scores with a rebound after a shot by Ethan Anders fell into his path. The final goal of the game came in the 35th minute when Lamin Jatta rolled an effort into the corner after a free kick from Sam Pearce hit the crossbar, with no efforts of note in the second half as the sun set on a chilly but sunny afternoon in Southampton (17th April).
Seven days later and Portchester continued their positive form with a hard fought one-nil victory against Petersfield Town at the Crest Finance Stadium. Although former Havant, Gosport and Moneyfields midfielder Marley Ridge’s sublime second half lob ensured the Royals made it two wins to start their group 1 campaign; it was actually youngster Harvey Aston who won man of the match in an unfamiliar position with a calm and assured display. The ninety minutes actually lacked chances with Portchester hitting the post through Sam Pearce and Petersfield going close with an effort late on; but it was job done for the Royals who saw many absences and injuries for this group 1 encounter (24th April).
Due to US Portsmouth’s continuing progress to the FA Vase Semi-finals, they were forced to withdraw from their scheduled match versus Portchester on 27th April with the Royals given walkover victory alongside the remaining teams in group 1. Bank Holiday weekend saw Portchester complete their group stage with four wins out of four with a three-one victory away at Hamble Club on May 1st. Although Mackenzie Gange gave the home side an early lead the Royals came roaring back with three goals at regular intervals from Curt Da Costa, Stan Bridgman Conor Bailey helping to seal the points. This was no doubt helped by a red card for Hamble’s Harris Wilson in the second half with the match still up for grabs, but Portchester won’t mind getting luck from the officials. With seven goals scored and only three conceded in these four victories, they are now one of the favourites for the competition when it finishes on 29th May.
Should Portchester win against Blackfield & Langley this weekend, they face a trip to either Hartley Wintney or New Milton Town on Saturday 15th May in the semi-finals. The winners will progress to the Hampshire FA Senior Invitational Cup final to be played on either 28th or 29th May (next Bank Holiday); with the potential of local supporters being allowed to attend this event alongside the Syd Wessex League Cup final scheduled for 22nd May. Fans should keep an eye out on club media for further information, but Portchester will hope to be lifting their first trophy in just three weeks time should they progress.
(Photograph courtesy of AFC Portchester)