By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER extended their winning start to the Wessex League Premier on Saturday afternoon as they travelled across to Dorset, edging Shaftesbury 5-4 in an entertaining nine-goal thriller to help maintain a 100% start. And it was an amazing advert for non-league football as both teams seemed to score their goals in pairs throughout the ninth minutes with the hosts twice coming back from two-goals behind in both halves; the Royals’ 5th and winning finish coming from Sam Pearce in the 89th minute to end this topsy-turfy match.
Although Ash Pope fired wide for Shaftesbury it was the visitors who scored 1st after ten minutes from their opening attacking move; Pearce keeping a corner in play and heading it across goal to George Barker who nodded past home goalkeeper Konrad Szyninak inside the near post for one-nil. Portchester then doubled this lead on twenty minutes with Barker adding his second of the afternoon, the winger collecting a brilliant cut back pass from Elliot Wheeler and firing home through a crowd of bodies inside the bottom right corner.
Barker quickly turned provider as he helped create Portchester’s third goal, beating his marker for pace and playing an inch perfect pass into Marley Ridge; the youngster showing composure to slot home underneath the outrushing Szyninak into the corner for 3-0. In response Shaftesbury pulled one goal back in the twenty-eighth minute as an incisive pass released Pope in space and the striker unselfishly squared across to Sam Lanahan who made no mistake in tapping home past the away goalkeeper Steven Mowthorpe from 6 yards.
Shaftesbury pulled themselves back into the game as Brian Foulger thread through to Pope with the attacker smashing past Mowthorpe at his near post from twelve yards, a composed finish under big pressure by Jake Raine. This was the final goal of a thrilling first half which was sadly marred on 34 minutes as a heavier clash of heads saw a lengthy stoppage; Portchester’s Curt Da Costa coming off worse and had to be replaced by Ryan Wilkins, which signalled a loss of momentum going into half time with five good goals already scored.
In comparison it was a quiet start upon the restart with Pitman bringing the game quickly back into life in the 54th minute, sending his curling free kick round the wall into the hands of Szyninak. Changes for both sides soon followed before the Royals scored their fourth in the 66th minute, substitute Harrison Brooks and Ridge linking up quickly in the right channel with a cross finding Pitman at the near post. Holding off a defender the striker made it four-two with ease into the corner; Wilkins flashing wide his deep low cross in the 6-yard box.
But Shaftesbury weren’t giving up and made it four-three on 69 minutes as Joseph Wickham’s big clearance released Cameron Beard who was taken out inside the box. The striker stepped up and saw his low penalty saved by Mowthorpe diving to the right, proving alert to the loose rebound and calmly slotted home into the corner of an unguarded net. And scores were level with fifteen left to play as Gary Bowles found Lanaghan via a flick pass from Beard, the attacker making some space to guide home inside the corner to make it 4-all.
There were opportunities for either side to score their fifth goal as both Foulger and Wickham forced brilliant saves for Shaftesbury with Pitman coming close down the other end. But it was Portchester who sealed the victory with the last notable chance on 89 minutes as they won a free kick that was floated into the box and was only half cleared falling to Pearce who rifled home into the top corner. And the drama wasn’t done there as a stoppage time tackle saw melee, with a mixture of both yellow and red cards shown before the whistle.
Following this away victory Portchester remain 2nd place in the table after four games, sitting behind leaders Bemerton Heath Harlequins on goal difference before they play against each other next Saturday at the On-Site Group Stadium. In the meantime, Dave Carter’s outfit will travel away to Baffins Milton Rovers in a local postcode derby encounter, whilst a rearranged Hampshire Senior Cup clash against Southern League outfit AFC Totton will then follow on September 13 (Tuesday) in the first competition round kicking off at 7:45pm.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Sam Pearce wheels away in celebration following his winner against Shaftesbury on Saturday, ending a nine-goal thriller at Cockrams in the overcast but dry Dorset conditions.