By Connor Steel
MONEYFIELDS pulled off an out-standing comeback success on Saturday afternoon as they beat high-flying Portchester three-two in the Wessex Premier; inflicting an opening home defeat on Dave Carter’s team since April 2022 in the division. But this does not tell the whole story from this fierce local clash as the Royals were in fact two goals ahead after forty-seven minutes of action before sinking without trace; the away side netting three times in the second half to seal three points and further blow open the title race with eleven games left.
With drizzly conditions swirling the On-Site Group Stadium it was the home side who created the first notable chance within ninety seconds of kick-off; ex-Moneyfields winger Charlie Bell forcing a smart diving save from visiting keeper Dylan Kramer before Brett Pitman sliced wide the rebound under pressure. In response Ryan Pennery played a beautiful cross-field pass into the left flank and found Callum Laylock who fired millimetres wide of the near post; Harry Sargeant nodding over from close range on 16 minutes from Callum Glen’s ball.
The hosts settled down the momentum with a period of possession and this gave them the platform to attack in greater numbers, creating a succession of chances that started when a flicked delivery found Sam Pearce whose low drive was deflected out for an unnoteworthy corner. Undeterred they went closer on twenty-seven minutes as Harrison Brook was inches away from diverting a long pass over Kramer with all defenders static; Pitman and Liam Robinson linking up quickly down the left side as the latter dragged over from twenty yards.
Pressures finally told on thirty-two minutes when Portchester took the lead through Brook, who rose higher in the six yard box and nodded home past Kramer inside the top right corner. This home advantage was almost doubled just moments later as the sliding Pitman narrowly missed a deep ball by Robinson before a range of similarly wasted openings; Bell forcing another low diving stop by Kramer and a curling set-piece by Ramsey floated harmlessly wide as Moneyfields were slightly fortunate not to be further trailing at the half time break.
It took just four minutes of the second half for Portchester to double their advantage and this goal came from a poor cleared delivery, which was recycled to reach Pitman at the near post who made little error in steering home. But Moneyfields weren’t about to go down without a fight and they immediately reduced this deficit on fifty-three minutes as a set piece was taken by Pennery; his initial effort bouncing kindly into his path and the in-form striker curled his shot past the stranded Portchester keeper Steven Mowthorpe making the score 2-1.
Robinson had a good opportunity to make it three-one after a swirling pass was deflected into his left foot but was denied by Kramer; the keeper further denying Pitman just after the hour mark with a diving stop. It was a moment that prompted changes for Moneyfields as they netted an equaliser in the sixty-ninth minute, coming from a corner that led to a huge goalmouth scramble and Chad Cornwall reacted the fastest as he toe-poked his effort home; home players loudly appealing for a late foul in the build-up that was not seen by the referee.
Both teams saw opportunities in the last twenty minutes with Bell slicing over the crossbar from an angle and George Barker scuffed wide under pressure for Portchester; Cornwall and Pennery further going closer down the other end for the visitors. And it was Moneyfields who sealed the three points with their eighty-fifth minute winner as Laycock calmly slotted home past Mowthorpe following a neat move down the right side; the home frustrations showing in the final moments with a few niggly fouls and scuffles as the referee ended this derby.
Wins for their title rivals Horndean, Stoneham and Bemerton Heath Harlequins mean that the Royals’ lead at the top has been reduced to seven points; although the former have two games in hand on the leaders and a much better goal difference overall. But Portchester may still have the advantage of having points already on the board as they face a big week in the title race with two games upcoming starting with the short journey to Hythe & Dibden on Tuesday night before playing United Services Portsmouth next Saturday in a local match.
PICTURED BY DAVE BODYMORE: Players from both teams contest in cagey midfield battle for a loose ball during local Portsmouth derby on Saturday afternoon; Moneyfields sealing a big comeback three-two victory.