By Connor Steel / Photograph by AFC Portchester Media
AFC Portchester were left frustrated on Saturday afternoon when they travelled to Wessex League Premier strugglers Christchurch, but were not beaten by their Dorset-based opponents at Hurn Bridge as they hoped to recover from two straight losses.
Instead they were halted by the heavy rain causing a controversial abandonment by the referee after 60 minutes, with the Royals 4-0 ahead after a near perfect display in awful conditions.
Hurting from derby defeats versus Moneyfields and Horndean over the last week, Portchester started brightly in attack and took the lead after just three minutes. Good interplay saw the ball worked into the path of Steve Ramsey; the captain’s effort taking a slight deflection and skidding off the surface to beat Christchurch keeper Ollie King into the corner. Sixty seconds later it was 2-0 as Lee Wort found space down the right and had his shot partially blocked, only for recent striker signing Ryan Pennery to follow up the rebound as he slammed home with ease.
Buoyed by this clinical start Portchester continued their pressure with multiple half chances in hope of improving their goal difference. George Colson sliced an angled effort wide down the right, while Marley Ridge and George Barker looked dangerous in possession with both having shots saved by King between the home sticks. Down the other end Sam Shearer fired harmlessly over the crossbar and the hosts did have some possession in Portchester’s half, but lacked the final ball as a lack of intent and bad weather joining together for Christchurch when the match reached the 35-minute mark.
Such was Portchester’s dominance as Barker fired into the side netting on 38 minutes, fans could have argued that Christchurch would have been lucky to only be 2-0 down heading into the break. But just as these murmurs gained voice in the rain-soaked crowd Portchester did make it 3-0 after 43 minutes, Lee Wort finally getting his reward after bullying the home defenders throughout the afternoon. The dangerous striker collected the ball and beat two players before finishing off a great team move and first half display as the interval was taken minutes after this third visiting goal.
Christchurch looked recharged after the interval as they looked good in possession and pressed higher up the pitch, which helped create their best opportunity after 47 minutes. Pinching the ball in midfield the hosts played the ball to Eder Batista on the edge of the box but skidded a shot wide from 20 yards. This was a missed chance that was punished two moments later when the visitors made it 4-0 with a fine solo finish down the right.
Marley Ridge collected the ball and stopped it from crossing for a throw-in, before feeding Pennery with a poked through-ball that split the defence. The striker used this to his advantage as he advanced towards goal in the penalty area, showing great footwork to create an angle that allowed him to calmly side-foot into the bottom corner. Neither the defenders or goalkeeper Ollie King were given a chance such was the quality of the goal, which effectively ended the game as a contest with 40 minutes left to play.
But the match didn’t last even that long as heavy rain continued to batter Hurn Bridge accompanied by swirling winds, the referee deciding to abandon play on the hour mark after a couple of players had slipped on the surface in a matter of moments. After consulting with both managers and linesmen the game was officially called off, meaning the 4-0 score-line won’t be carried forward much to relief from home fans and staff with a rearranged fixture now needing to be played on November 9 to add to an already busy schedule.
Portchester were furious at this decision at 4.17pm having travelled to Christchurch amidst a fuel supply crisis that has seen similar long trips cancelled, whilst also playing their midweek encounter versus Horndean to its conclusion in arguably worse conditions. For the Royals it was a wasted 100-plus mile all round trip, particularly as the surface hadn’t visually deteriorated and the ball was still moving unimpeded despite the conditions.
It should have been three further points for the Royals that would have ended their losing run in all competitions and seen them enter the top half of the table after eight games, but ultimately nothing has changed except their lack of result pushing them down into 15th with games in hand. They will hope to continue the many positives of this performance when they face Hythe & Dibden on Tuesday night away in Southampton. Portchester will then travel back to Dorset for a clash versus unbeaten Hamworthy next weekend, playing on their all-weather artificial surface on Saturday afternoon.
Readers can read the official AFC Portchester angle of this match in which they heavily criticise the referee’s decision and ask whether officials should have made their decision earlier on this link.