By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER continued their good run of form on Saturday afternoon with a comfortable three-one win over Bournemouth Poppies at the On-Site Group Stadium, extending their unbeaten streak to seven Wessex Premier League encounters and just two defeats versus Bashley from their last nineteen since last November. But arguably better than the three points this game saw striker Lee Wort hit two landmarks as he hit 40 goals this campaign and reached the fifty for the Royals since joining in summer 2020.
In sunny conditions Bournemouth Poppies started the better with some incisive passing that helped them create the opening chance on seven minutes, Nik Canadel having a shot rise over the crossbar after a poor clearance fell into this path before Neemo Nixon saw his low effort saved by goalkeeper Steve Mowthorpe. In response Portchester saw a series of opportunities with Connor Bailey dragged wide after being found by Wort, whilst Harvey Ashton created space but curled over in an equal first fifteen minutes of play.
Bournemouth continued to push against the home backline and saw their next opportunity come on 21 minutes when Kyle Graham spread the ball out wide to Nixon whose deep cross bounced beyond a left foot of Canadel at the back post before being cleared to safety. Five minutes later Portchester created their best chance as Sam Pearce nodded against the crossbar from a corner, before a cross into the feet of Wort reached George Barker; the wingers touch and shot drifting over the bar just before the half-hour.
An injury stoppage for Bournemouth’s Sami Garcia briefly halted the momentum, with the visitor’s next attack seeing Canadel find Graham behind the defence; the striker’s effort flying over the bar in a poor finish. From this point Portchester dominated the last few moments before the break as shots from Marley Ridge and Archie Greenough were saved by Poppies’ goalkeeper Alfie Rogers, before an ambitious long-range strike from Tyler Giddings flew harmlessly over from an angle as a goalless first half concluded.
Although the Poppies saw the opening attack after the restart as Mowthorpe denied Jamie Wilson’s effort with a smart save, it was Portchester who took the lead after 51 minutes with their first foray forward of the second half. It came as neat interplay on the edge of the box found Bailey in space on the left side, his cross into the corridor of uncertainty reaching the striker who simply stabbed home from close range; Greenough hitting the crossbar moments later with his angled hooked attempt as a header bounced into his path.
Portchester added their second goal just before the hour mark via a rare goalkeeping mistake from a stranded Rogers, who could only punch the ball into the feet of Wort who made no mistake in slicing his shot into the unguarded net from twelve yards; his fortieth goal of the 2021-22 season to date. It was also a goal that signalled a quiet lull in proceedings as the hosts dominated possession without a sense of urgency despite an effort from Ridge that went just over; whilst there was also an injury stoppage as Wort suffered an injury to be replaced by his strike-partner Lamin Jatta with eighteen minutes left to play.
The points were secured when Portchester made it three nil with their last real attack on 81 minutes as Pearce won the ball in a crowded area and fired home into the far corner with a good finish. But there was bad news for the Royals as Zak Sharp was stretched off following a tackle, this interruption seeing changes for both sides. And halfway through the 10 minutes of additional time, Bournemouth Poppies did get a consolation goal they richly deserved for their efforts, good work finding Bailey Tabor who fired his tidy finish into the bottom left to score on his debut; but it was too little too late for the visitors.
Despite this hard fought victory Portchester remain seventh in the league table with three games left to play, holding off eighth place Moneyfields who also won on Saturday afternoon versus Amesbury; a position which is unlikely to be any higher with an eight point margin to AFC Stoneham. Dave Carter’s side will now travel to United Services Portsmouth on Tuesday night in a local derby at Burnaby Road for a rearranged match starting at 7:45pm, before ending the season with two home games versus champions-elect Hamworthy United next weekend and Portland United over the Easter weekend (April 16).
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Wort wheels away after scoring one of his two goals against the Poppies on Saturday afternoon, hitting two landmarks in the process of this impressive performance.