Our student reporter Jay Rowland gives his verdict on last Saturday’s win over Hamworthy.
AFC Portchester 3 Hamworthy United 2
AFC Portchester won their fourth successive game and closed the gap on second place to five points after beating Hamworthy United 3-2 in a pulsating contest.
Eight league places separated the two sides before kick-off but the visitors looked hungry for a win after only two wins in their last eight games, and had the first real chance of the game when a dipping volley whistled just over the bar.
The Royals responded in perfect fashion and took the lead on ten minutes when Dan Wooden split the defence with a beautiful half-volley pass that Nathan Paxton duly slotted past the onrushing Tom Rees in the Hamworthy net.
Portchester almost doubled their lead minutes later after an excellent team move gave Rob Evans a clear shot on goal from 18 yards, but he could only fire straight at the keeper.
In-form Jason Parish looked to add to his goal tally after netting five times in the last two games, but uncharacteristically sliced over from six yards after a loose ball fell at his feet.
Hamworthy equalised in the 37th minute against the run of play when Eddie Hodge latched on to a long ball and guided the ball past Brad Snelling and into the bottom corner.
The Royals had good chances through Parish and Evans to snatch the lead back before half time, however, both efforts failed to trouble Rees.
The second half started rather slowly, with the first real chance for either side falling to Hamworthy on the hour mark when Hodge struck a powerful effort just beyond the post.
Hodge looked dangerous all game and gave the visitors the lead on 63 minutes after Jordan Rose slipped and allowed Cocklin to break through and pass across the goal to find Hodge, who lashed his strike in via the underside of the crossbar to score both his and Hamworthy’s second of the match.
Portchester had strong appeals for a penalty dismissed when Wooden was clearly clipped on the ankle while driving into the box, but these pleas fell on deaf ears.
The Royals were not to be denied for long, however, as Jack Barker cut through the Hamworthy back line with tremendous dribbling before crossing to the back post. Rees got a glove to it, but the ball fell kindly to Portchester’s top scorer Wooden, who couldn’t miss and levelled the scores with 15 minutes to go.
Four minutes later, Portchester struck the decisive blow. After relentless pressure, a corner was crossed right into the heart of the box and nodded home by Craig Hardy to spark joyous celebrations at the Crest Finance Stadium.
Both teams had half-chances to grab another goal, but the Royals were victorious at the full time whistle. Manager Mick Catlin now turns his attention to the home match next Saturday against fifth-placed Christchurch, who will be looking to continue their red-hot form.