By Connor Steel
AFC PORTCHESTER dropped their opening league points in 2024 as they hosted “in-form” Cowes Sports on Saturday afternoon; settling for an entertaining two-all stalemate against the Yachtsmen after a watchable and intriguing Wessex Premier encounter that could ultimately have gone either way under overcast conditions at the On-Site Group Stadium.
The Royals started quickly and created their first chance within sixty seconds as Marley Ridge brushed the side-netting after great work by Charlie Williamson; the midfielder further slicing over moments later. But it was actually Cowes who netted an opener through Connor Kelly as the winger’s drive deflected into the left corner, giving the keeper no chance.
Harrison Brook was looking particularly threatening and had various off-target attempts in quick succession whilst Scott McFarlane fired straight at Steven Mowthorpe down the other end. George Barker then forced a neat stop from Ed Hatt before the home team levelled on the half hour mark; Issiaga Kaba nodding inside the right corner after a brilliant pass.
Cowes were left frustrated as loud penalty appeals were rejected by the referee and were unlucky not to net again after forty minutes; Jordan Cook feeding Joe Hancott who was denied smartly by Mowthorpe. And Portchester were about to punish this missed opportunity as a neat cross was headed into the net from Liam Robinson in added time for two-one.
This home ‘momentum’ became evident upon the second half restart and Portchester thought they had scored on forty eight minutes from a clever corner routine; Ryan Woodward’s shot cleared off the line by Hatt in a goalmouth scramble. A similar opportunity further came minutes later as Archie Wilcox’s cross was scrambled clear off the ‘left foot’ of Brook.
But Cowes were not giving up and deserved their ‘equaliser’ that arrived on the hour through McFarlane who slammed into the far corner from John McKie’s deflected pass. Substitutions followed across both teams in the only lull of the 90 minutes and included an injury stoppage for Connor Bailey; Brook and Lee Wort then seeing good half chances saved.
An end-to-end conclusion then developed with both sides hoping to score a late winner; Portchester going closest with Williamson running through and seeing a shot saved by Hatt before Wilcox and Bailey went close. Down the other end there were half chances and multiple corners for Cowes as Ollie West headed over, but neither side could score to win.
This draw means Portchester do stay third in the Wessex Premier after 26 games and remain unbeaten since the New Year, but they failed to close the gap on the top two who didn’t play on Saturday due to the weather. A home clash now awaits the Royals as they host fourth place Moneyfields next weekend, hoping to avenge a four-two loss in December.
PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Liam Robinson prepares to divert home his header, making it two-one at half time.