Royals solidify promotion push with Blues’ success

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER solidified their promotion push in the Wessex League Premier as they played Portland United on Saturday afternoon; comfortably beating their mid-table opponents two-nil following this very attacking and professional home performance in front of 240 supporters at the On-Site Group Stadium to make it thirteen unbeaten so far in 2024.

The Royals started brightly under spring sunshine and saw Brett Williams convert a delivery after five minutes; but their goal celebrations were cut short due to an offside flag. But the home side did net a “legal goal” just eighty seconds later when Harrison Brook’s pass was sliced inside the left corner by Josh Benfield to leave Harrison Bruton with no chance.

James Cowan also wasted his promising set-piece before an outstanding save from Bruton denied Ryan Wilkins as the home outfit pushed for the second; Portland reacting well with fine chances for Connor Bent and Ben Morris. The away side further saw Jamie Cleaver narrowly nod over a corner before the half hour mark after a small deflection in the box.

Portland were fortunate on thirty-six minutes as a loose pass was collected by Connor Bailey and he rifled over despite having better options; the chance hoping to switch all the momentum back for Portchester. They saw a number of good openings before the ‘interval’ with Cowan and Benfield denied by Bruton, who then prevented Brook’s powerful header.

A cagey start to the second period was broken on fifty minutes when Williams found himself through on goal; the striker attempting to chip the out-rushing Bruton and only succeeding in sending this effort wide off target. Down the other end Portland had their best chance to level up moments later as Morris fed Greg Borthwick who dragged over the crossbar.

Substitutions then followed across the two sides and proceedings drifted into a lengthy lull with Portchester dominating possession in attacking positions; Archie Wilcox skimming the woodwork with his header after the hour mark. This was followed by George Barker lashing over the crossbar, and Jacob Coombes having his drive saved by the home keeper.

Dave Carter’s team did eventually get their second goal when a corner reached Wilkins at the back stick; the right back sliding into the corner for two-nil with five minutes left. And this was how it stayed in the final stages despite a late flurry of set-pieces and attacks towards goal, their nearest attempt seeing Wilkins drag over the bar deep into stoppage time.

These three points mean that Portchester sit fourth in the current standings and cut the gap on Stoneham to just seven points; although Moneyfields have a couple of games in hand due to postponements. Their attentions will briefly turn to the Russell Cotes Cup on Tuesday as they host Hythe before they travel to Baffin Milton Rovers next Saturday (09/03).

PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Portchester have an attempt on goal despite the best effort of Portland defenders.