By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN FC proved that one week is a long time in football as they were trashed by a clinical Shaftesbury performance on Saturday afternoon, losing 5-0 in front of 239 spectators at a sunny Cams Alders.
Truthfully and somewhat ironically, this was a Hallowe’en weekend horror show by the Creeksiders, failing to create any clear cut chances against their opponents who have almost leapfrogged Pete Stiles’ men in the Wessex League Premier as a result.
Despite three changes from the draw at Cowes, Fareham started brightly in autumn sunshine after the morning’s downpour, dominating the possession and having Charlie Cooper’s low cross to the far post cleared by Ron Frost. Moments later, Callum Benfield fired over the crossbar with an ambitious effort and Ben Rowthorn’s free kick evaded Garry Moody at the back post, the game reaching the 20-minute mark without further opportunities for either side in a quiet spell of attacking play.
But in a warning shot for Fareham, Shaftesbury created their first opportunity as Luke Delaney found space in midfield and set Ash Pope free on goal, the striker firing wide of the goal with the returning Dan Kempton beaten. This set in motion an onslaught of away attacks which saw Greg Peel fire wide, Nick Swann denied by the Town shotstopper and captain Louis Kellaway head wide following a cross to the unguarded near post. With all these chances in quick succession, it was no surprise when Shaftesbury took the lead on 27 minutes after a fantastic team goal.
With possession seized on half way, the ball was worked first time into the path of Pope who was out wide on the left, cutting down towards the by-line and floating a precise cross into the path of Ash Phillips. The striker was lurking unmarked near the penalty sport and given time to caress a volley past Kempson into the corner, sparking cheers from the away bench and Fareham fans even applauding the brilliant work of this attack after many near-misses.
By this point Fareham were struggling to reassert control, which was not helped by an injury to Garry Moody on 37 minutes as he stretched for a loose ball. But the defender and his side continued to battle through to the break with Archie Wilcox shooting wide, while Robbins’ brilliantly paced cross evaded the back post stretch of Benfield in a missed opportunity in the 43rd minute. On the stroke of half time, a fine tackle by Cooper denied a surging run of left back Brad Hill down the wing from a Fareham corner, the referee blowing for the interval shortly afterwards.
The Creeksiders brought on Louis Udeh at half time as the player replaced the injured Moody, immediately creating problems with his incisive passing. Not only did he set up fellow substitute Josh Benfield who fired wide via a deflection, with another through ball finding Jack Van Der Lugt in space as the youngster shot inches over the crossbar with a long ranger from 25 yards out. But back came the visitors as Ethan Jones fouled Kellaway for a penalty, tucked home by Peel into the corner to make it 2-0 on 55 minutes.
Just after the hour mark, Fareham created their best chance of the game as Rowthorn found Callum Benfield with a crossed corner delivery, his header looping Shaftesbury keeper Alex Cull only to be cleared off the line by a backtracking defender. This killed Town’s confidence and the visitors dominated from this point, seeing a third goal ruled out for offside after great work down the right wing before they made substitutions to inject some pace into the midfield area of the Cams Alders surface.
Moments after Swann had hit the post with a fierce drive, Shaftesbury did get the third goal they deserved as substitute Aiden Shepard broke free, making no mistake with a calm and composed finish into the bottom corner on 67 minutes despite the best efforts of the outrushing Fareham keeper. A horrible afternoon for Town soon got worse as recent fixture schedules took its toll, with Archie Wilcox picked up a shoulder injury after falling awkwardly, having to go off the pitch to be replaced by Kai Sterne.
Fresh legs didn’t stop the Shaftesbury onslaught as the game drifted towards an inevitable defeat for Fareham, the visitors making it 4-0 in the 80th minute. A cross was deflected out for a corner from the left as a perfect delivery reached the unmarked Kyle Graham who nodded into the far top right as home fans began to filter out of the ground. Josh Benfield then suffered a knee injury as Fareham were reduced to 10 men, before Luke Delaney scored a fifth goal for Shaftesbury, adding extra gloss to the score-line in added time, the referee blowing the final whistle and putting Town out of their misery moments later.
Now seventh place in the league table, Fareham will hope to redeem themselves and bounce back quickly as they travel to Brockenhurst on Tuesday night for a Wessex League Cup encounter under the lights. Upon their return from the New Forest the Creeksiders will travel to US Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon. Their next game at Cams Alders will be on November 9, when they are scheduled to play Harvest FC in the Portsmouth Senior Cup, 7.45pm kick-off.
ON THE ATTACK: A corner is played into the Shaftesbury penalty area. Photograph by Paul Proctor