By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER bounced back from their midweek El-Creekio defeat and resulting exit from the Wessex League Cup to Fareham in superb style, thrashing high-flying Shaftesbury five-one in sunny North Dorset conditions. On an artificial pitch surface Dave Carter’s were simply outstanding at Cockrams in a clinical display of finishing that included five different scorers alongside a solid defensive performance to limit the league’s top scorers to just the single consolation goal late on with the game already over as a contest.
The Royals adapted to the 3G surface with some quick passing and created their first opening after four minutes as Lee Wort cut inside, his low shot saved well by the outstretched legs of Shaftesbury goalkeeper Lewis Gumstone-Gray from close range. But the visitors continued to dominate the early stages and won a free-kick as Felipe Barcelos in a dangerous area twenty-five yards out; a chance that wasn’t squandered by Sam Pearce as he curled into the corner over the wall to give Portchester the lead after just six minutes.
Wort then had a goal disallowed for offside but Portchester did double their advantage on twelve minutes with their next attack, Barcelos collecting the ball on the left and curled home into the top far corner from twenty-five yards with an excellent finish. In response Shaftesbury saw their opening chance as Brad Hill’s delivery fell to Luke Delaney in space; the attacker shooting over before a shot by Asa Phillips drifted wide. But on 21 minutes it was three nil to Portchester as a poor clearance fell to Wort, who made no mistake accepting the unexpected gift and fired home with a tidy low finish.
Proceedings reached the half-hour mark without further notable action as momentum slowed down following an injury to Phillips, who was replaced by Greg Peel after a lengthy stoppage. This enforced interruption seemed to allow stability to Shaftesbury’s play as Ash Pope fired over the crossbar after a mix up in the Portchester defence, whilst Billy Maybury’s curling effort was saved comfortably by the gloves of away keeper Steven Mowthorpe. Down the other end an opening for Wort was nearly converted in stoppage time after good work down the right; referee Darren Cooley blowing for half time shortly afterwards.
Portchester started the second period in fine throttle and added a fourth goal on 49 minutes as the ball was worked out to the left; the delivery from Conor Bailey finding the unmarked George Barker who calmly side-footed home across Gumstone-Gray into the bottom corner. Shortly afterwards a free-kick by Steve Ramsey was headed across goal and flicked forwards by Curt Da Costa, who saw his looping header comfortably gathered by the home keeper; multiple substitutions across both sides causing a drawn-out lull in proceedings with little goalmouth action at either end of the pitch.
The visitors had a series of half chances with around twenty minutes left to play as Pearce, Barker, and Wort all went close in quick succession; Shaftesbury also seeing a good chance on 75 minutes as Peel’s hooked effort from Jordan Foot’s cross beating the post with Mowthorpe left scrambling on his goal-line. And with ten left on the clock the hosts created another brilliant opportunity as Peel broke free of the defence with a burst of pace; his shot brilliantly tipped away by Mowthorpe for a corner that came to nothing.
It was five-nil to Portchester with just four minutes left after good game management, being very patient in midfield that allowed Archie Greenough the space to run through; the youngster showing composure beyond his years to slot inside the post to cap a five-star away performance overall. But there was a slight glimmer of disappointment for the Royals as Shaftesbury did pull one back in added time from the penalty spot; Peel fouled in the box by a defender and his strike-partner Aiden Shepard making no mistake in scoring to reduce the arrears with the last notable action before the final whistle.
Shaftesbury remain the top scorers in the Wessex Premier this campaign with 114 goals, but defeat on Non-League Day means they lost further ground on the top two following other results including Bashley and Hamworthy. For the Royals they have leapfrogged Baffins Milton Rovers into seventh place in the table on goal difference with just four games left to play this campaign. This run-in starts next Saturday afternoon with a home clash versus Bournemouth Poppies on April 2, before the final away trip sees Portchester travel to US Portsmouth for their rearranged fixture from early March just three days later.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: An effort is fired goal-wards by away attacker as Shaftesbury defenders look on, Portchester sealing a fantastic five-one victory over their opponents at a sunny Cockrams.