AFC Portchester 3 Baffins Milton Rovers 2
Jason Parish proved to be Portchester’s hat-trick hero when his treble against his former club fired the Royals to an improbable victory.
The home side took the lead but two goals in two first half minutes by the visitors turned the game on its head.
That was until Parish struck with a double in the closing stages of the game to net Portchester three crucial points they hadn’t looked like getting at one stage.
The visitors had the first chance of the game on three minutes when Robbie Taw’s cross from the right brushed the top of Tyler Moret’s head but the ball went straight through to keeper Brad Snelling.
On 14 minutes Joe Noakes knocked a deep free kick into the penalty area into the path of Nathan Paxton but he put his header wide.
Five minutes later Dan Wooden fizzed his free kick from the right towards goal but it went straight at keeper Cameron Scott.
Baffins tested the home defence again on 23 minutes when when a cross from the right by Tommy Tierney picked out More, who had found some space inside the box. His low shot saw Snelling just get down quick enough to block the ball and then gather it up before any attackers could get to the rebound.
On 28 minutes Portchester played the ball forward from midfield into the path of Rob Evans and his shot from the edge of the box had Scott scrambling across his line but the ball went into the side netting.
The home side got their noses in front on 33 minutes when a free kick was floated into the penalty area. After being partially cleared Jordan Rose turned the loose ball back across goal and Jason Parish sent his downward header bouncing into the net.
A minute later Baffins gave Portchester a warning of what was about to come their way when Ashton Leigh went sprinting clear of the defence and as he looked to take the ball around Snelling, the keeper stuck out a leg to block his progress towards goal.
The home side almost got their second goal on 37 minutes when a long ball over the top put Noakes clear on the left. His cross to the far post found Parish, whose header beat Scott but a defender got back on the line to prevent the ball going into the net.
Baffins then turned the game on its head with two goals in two minutes to go in at the interval 2-1 ahead.
On 40 minutes a cross from the left found Tierney, who saw his shot pushed away by Snelling. The ball was crossed back in again and this time Tierney hit a low shot straight into the net.
Two minutes later a deep cross-field pass dropped in behind the home defence and after a home player slipped over when trying to chase the ball, Tommy Scutt won possession before running on and slipping a low shot past Snelling.
A somewhat shell-shocked Portchester took time to get going in the second half and Baffins almost put the game beyond them a minute after the re-start.
A quick passing move saw Tierney and More combine to put Leigh through on goal but his shot lacked power and ran straight through to Snelling.
On 56 minutes a quick free kick from the right rolled through to Tierney but his attempted shot from the edge of the six yard box was blocked by a defender.
After the hour mark Portchester finally found their feet again and they went close to equalising when Parish was sent clear down the right before he squared the ball inside to Wooden.
The Royals’ top scorer tried to fire home his shot but it was partially blocked and ran on for Scott to make an easy save.
The home side were back on level terms on 75 minutes when Wooden fired in a free kick from the right and Parish’s diving header went inside the near post.
Portchester re-took the lead five minutes later in spectacular fashion. A free kick from the right was helped on by Paxton into the path of Parish, who completed his hat-trick by smashing the ball home from just inside the penalty area off the inside of the near post.
Baffins weren’t finished yet though and they came back strongly in the final ten minutes. With six minutes remaining a ball down the right found Leigh, who played it inside to Tierney and his first time shot was blocked before he smashed the rebound well over the top.
After Paxton was sent to the sin bin in injury time, the visitors went so close to snatching a dramatic late equaliser.
They got in behind the Portchester defence and the ball was pulled back from the byline across goal to substitute Dale Mason. His close range shot was saved by Snelling at full stretch and the rebound could not be turned home from close range.
GOALS: Jason Parish (33 mins, 75 mins, 80 mins).
LINE-UP: Brad Snelling, Olly Searle, Adam Cripps, Rob Evans, Craig Hardy, Jordan Rose, Nathan Paxton, Steve Ramsey, Jason Parish (replaced by Jack Barker on 87 mins), Dan Wooden, Joe Noakes (replaced by Sutcha Shepherd on 57 mins).
SUBS NOT USED: Liam Bush, Brodie Spencer, Reece Colborne.