Royals reach semi-finals with New Milton win

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER are two games from potential silverware as they beat New Milton Town to reach the semi-final stage of the Wessex League Cup on Tuesday night, beating their New Forest based opponents three nil on a chilly evening for football. Goals from Lee Wort and a double from Lamin Jatta returning from US Portsmouth sealed progress for Dave Carter’s men; with the Royals manager very happy with the performance after a delayed kick-off due to a traffic accident on the motorway.

Following the late start of 8:15pm it was a slow opening fifteen minutes to this quarter final as New Milton absorbed early Portchester pressure, which saw the visitors create their first chance after ten minutes. Good play down the left found George Barker, who did brilliantly to cut inside but saw his low effort cleared off the line by home defender Joe Kimber. Shortly afterwards another attack was ended in Marley Ridge firing just over the crossbar after being found in space to the left hand side.

Portchester were left feeling aggrieved on 22 minutes as Lee Wort looked to be fouled after breaking into the penalty area at pace, but stayed on his feet and saw his shot saved by Luke Dennison between the New Milton sticks. But the visitors were celebrating on the half hour as they took the lead, the ball played to Wort who controlled and fired into the bottom left corner with an expert finish. It should have been two-nil as Ridge was found through on goal, but saw his shot well saved.

In response New Milton Town saw their best spell of attacking moves just before half time, the first came on 32 minutes as a loose pass saw Tyler Rudd advance through on goal. But thankfully his shot was saved by the diving Steve Mowthorpe, who also made a flying save to stop an effort from Tyrrell Sampson on 38 minutes as the attacker looked to curl his twenty-five yarder into the top corner. The away captain Steve Ramsey was also booked for a late foul in the final action of a closely fought half.

The Royals started well in the second half with their first opportunity on 49 minutes as good forward play found Archie-Lee Greenough in space, but the striker’s effort lacked power and was gathered by the home goalkeeper. Down the other end both Sampson and Elliott Pearce-Eavis went close in very good positions, whilst Aaron Scott headed over an inswinging corner from close range down the left side and the home side were starting to build pressure; much to the frustrations of Portchester staff.

Both sides made changes either side of the hour mark with Bello replacing Greenough, joining the 1st substitution that saw the injured Barker replaced by Jatta in the first half. This changes didn’t make a huge impact on this even cup encounter that quickly turned into a midfield battle, with few clear cut opportunities in front of goal. Half chances and openings did come with around 20 minutes left with Wort firing wide and Ramsey shooting over, whilst Rudd saw his drive flash the posts on 67 minutes.

Following a quiet spell Portchester put one foot into the semi finals as they doubled their advantage on 77 minutes as Jatta found space and turned his marker with a great touch, before slotting a drive into the corner to make it 2-0. And in stoppage time it became three-nil as Jatta scored his second in a fine counter attack; running through the home half and slotting home into the net with a calm and composed finish. This proved to be the final notable touch as Portchester sealed progress with ease

The semi-finals have yet to be decided as other quarters are still awaiting completing, but the Royals must turn their attention to league action as they host Cowes Sports at the On-Site Group Stadium in what promises to be a feisty encounter on Saturday afternoon. An El-Creekio derby will then await in the Hampshire Senior Cup third round next Wednesday night before they host bottom league outfits Hythe & Dibden three days later; Dave Carter’s men hoping to build on two games unbeaten in a row.

Photograph by Portsmouth Sport: Lamin Jatta plays for Portchester and turns a defender