By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER gained local bragging rights and extended their lengthy unbeaten steak to 20 Wessex League matches on Bank Holiday Monday (January 2); thrashing fierce rivals Fareham Town four-one at the On-Site Group Stadium. It was a resounding performance from the Royals after initially trailing to an opening away goal and celebrations were only strengthened by the return of Steve Ramsey; alongside a new league and club record crowd of 1,598 supporters in a figure that dwarfed multiple gates across non-league football.
But it was a cagey start to this El-Creekio as both teams settled into a midfield battle; the first notable chance coming for Fareham after two minutes when Ronan Galloway headed inches over the crossbar from a clever corner routine. Down the other end Portchester did look threatening with Harrison Brook placing his effort at away keeper Luke Deacon when well placed, whilst Brett Pitman was further denied by a defensive block on eleven minutes; home midfielder Liam Robinson in particular causing many issues for the visiting defenders.
Fareham opened the scoring after twenty-two minutes when incisive passing reached Connor Underhill via a defensive slip on the wet surface; the winger taking the loose ball forward unchallenged before slotting home across keeper Steven Mowthorpe into the bottom corner. This silenced the large home contingent and things nearly improved for the Creeksiders with two outstanding chances to double this lead; Charlie Cooper slicing wide from twenty-five yards out and Mowthorpe denying a flicked header by Gary Moody on the 31st minute.
Scores were levelled just eighty seconds later as Portchester launched a counter attack down the right wing through George Barker, who saw his low effort saved by Deacon; Connor Bailey reacting quickest and firing home the rebound despite two defenders on the goalline. And following another chance for Fareham through Mark Smith the home side took the lead eight minutes before the interval; Pitman winning a free kick that he curled over the wall and deceived Deacon at his right side from twenty-five yards to spark noisy celebrations.
The hosts controlled proceedings upon the restart and extended their advantage further on fifty minutes with a scrappy third goal scored by Curt Da Costa; the defender latching onto a flick-on and converting a header into the net from close range after an inital block. Ramsey then went close to scoring a fourth moments later as he ran onto a loose pass and fired over the crossbar before Pitman drove narrowly wide of the near post; Fareham making two substitutions on the hour mark as they attempted to thwart the almost constant attacks.
These tactical tweaks gave the visitors a fresh impetus as they created half chances in quick succession; the first coming when Underhill cut inside and dragged wide of the far post under pressure. Moments later Morris Dench made an interception and saw his powerful effort blocked at source whilst Casey Bartlett-Scott’s deep set-piece cleared the bar from twenty five yards out; the Creeksiders losing confidence as the match wore on with Portchester wrestling back control with spells of great possession and tactical substitutions of their own.
With a home victory becoming inevitable by each minute Portchester looked the likelier to add more gloss to the scoreline in the final minutes; a cross from Bailey swirling off the crossbar in now breezy conditions and Pitman’s low effort being saved by Deacon at the near post. But there was time for the hosts to get the fourth goal with three minutes left as Ramsey collected the ball from Pitman before turning two markers and curling inside the top corner from around thirty yards out; capping off this stylish afternoon both on and off the pitch.
This derby success means Dave Carter’s team have won eighteen of their twenty league games and now sit eleven points ahead of AFC Stoneham; who leapfrogged Horndean into second place following other results. In contrast Fareham have dropped to thirteenth following their third successive loss since early in December and another eight league games planned throughout January; starting with a clash versus Laverstock & Ford this Saturday. Meanwhile Portchester will visit Hythe & Dibden at the same time, providing the weather is dry.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL PHOTOGRAPHY: Home players run away in celebrations after scoring a late fourth goal versus Fareham in resounding El-Creekio victory on Monday, watched on by massive crowd.