By Connor Steel
AFC STONEHAM cemented their dreams of an ‘automatic promotion’ from the Wessex League Premier as they hosted Fareham Town on Tuesday evening; beating their struggling opponents two-nil at the Stoneham Lane complex after an intriguing close-fought encounter that was played on an artificial surface with Storm Jocelyn causing difficult conditions.
The hosts started brightly with the wind in their favour and created their first chance after four minutes; Tyrrell Sampson seeing a shot deflected as he linked up well with Jim Orvis. In response the Creeksiders did slowly adapted to the pitch and grew in confidence as Sam Woodward headed over the crossbar, whilst a low drive from Jamie Hosking flew wide.
Liam Callaghan hit a shot into the side netting for Stoneham on 18 minutes as they wanted an opener, which was soon nearly scored by Fareham as Elliot Holmes sent a free kick narrowly over from twenty yards. Home goalkeeper Callum Lee was then called into action after the half hour as he saved Woodward’s looping effort by tipping it well over the bar.
Fareham were looking great as Lewis Colvin went close on two occasions before Dave Vince sliced inches wide under pressure in the thirty-third minute; a series of corners further being squandered. And the hosts punished all the missed chances as they took the lead in the last opening before half time; Ash Pope slotting into the net from Sampson’s pass.
The goal dented away confidence upon the restart and Stoneham should have doubled their lead on forty-nine minutes through Pope, who stole a bad pass and dragged wide of the near left post. A ‘moment of controversy’ then followed as Ben Clarke kicked the ball out of the stadium despite already being booked; the referee deciding not to show him a red.
And the league leaders showed brilliant quality before the hour mark with their second goal which came from a counter attack starting in their own penalty area. The ball was worked into the path of Callaghan whose drive was saved by the away keeper Jordi Valero onto the bar, but Pope was lurking dangerously and made no errors as he added the second.
Multiple substitutions seemed to halt attacking momentum in the last thirty minutes with sadly only a few “half chances” of note; Holmes and Charlie Cooper providing simple stops for Lee after fine build-up play. Valero was required to deny a third goal for Stoneham later in the evening as he dived brilliantly to stop Sampson with play drifting towards the end.
This result means that Stoneham have a four point lead at the “summit” above Shaftesbury in second after 25 matches played so far; Moneyfields having eight games in hand on the top two. Meanwhile Fareham are fourteenth in this table having featured in eighteen matches to date and will hopefully play against Shaftesbury next Saturday at Cams Alders.
PICTURED BY FAREHAM TOWN MEDIA: Away attacker attempts a fierce shot on target as Stoneham dive in to stop.