AFC Portchester took a big step forward in their quest to end their season undefeated with a comfortable 4-0 win against 2nd placed Liphook United.
The eyes amongst the local non-league scene would have been affixed to this fixture in the build to the game – with Liphook only losing one game themselves so far this campaign – the previous time the Royals ventured up the A3 last autumn.
I happened to arrive at the game a few minutes late after enjoying some brunch with friends in Andover (Saturdays are for pre-match pub crawls, Sundays are for brunch) only to find out that Portchester had bagged the opening goal within 30 seconds. Some fine play from full-back Kayleigh Merrett allowed her to feed the ball into the path of Ella Wilson, who slotted the ball in the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Under 18’s graduate Wilson of the ‘Class of Covid’ batch of youth players who have starred for Portchy this season has had a phenomenal first season in women’s football – bagging 7 goals in 7 appearances in the league. One to watch for the future no doubt.
As the first half progressed the nerves from the home side began to settle down and the ladies began to cycle the ball well around the pitch, waiting patiently for the right opening. The biggest threats in the first half from both sides came from their wide forwards – Shannen Woods had some blistering runs for Portchester and Becky Anderson was a tireless threat for Liphook, chasing down a ball on the left-wing – only to be thwarted by an assured Roberts in goal, rushing out of goal to make a vital challenge.
The second goal for Portchy bred further confidence in their long-range shooting for the rest of the half. After 21 minutes, former Portsmouth Ladies veteran, Michelle Niven received the ball on the edge of the box and hit a curler into the top left corner of the goal past the diving keeper’s fingertips.
From here on out in the first forty-five, the Portchy attack pushed on, forcing the Liphook defence to play the ball out under pressure. This eventually paid out when Shannen Woods took a pop shot from range that hit the bar, only to take an unforgettable ricochet off the Liphook keeper’s head to end up in the net.
Not long after Portchy put the game to bed on 42 minutes, Lynsey Crewe slapping a shot from range that was out of reach for the Liphook keeper just below the centre of the crossbar. No doubt renditions of the fans groups chant ‘you’re just too good Lynsey Crewe’ would have been brought out for that effort if spectators had been inside the Wicor Recreation Ground. The growing following this team is developing is testament to not only their talent but also team spirit.
The end of the first half brought on a much-needed drinks break to get away from the relentless heat. This no doubt had an effect on the second half to come.
Portchester continued to push for a fifth after the break – Crewe striking the post from distance with an effort that would have topped her first-half goal. However, both teams began to tire and the pace of the game slowed. Liphook did claim more possession and had a well-driven ball played in by Anderson from the right – but Portchester looked comfortable and showed why their iron defence has only conceded one goal this season.
The big drama of the second half came from an unlikely source. Goalkeeper by trade, Chantelle Robinson, came off the bench to put in a shift up front as first-team coach, Mark Dugan, switched to a 4-4-2. Not looking out of place, Robinson took the ball past a defender on the edge of the box, only to be brought down for a spot-kick by a stray Liphook leg.
Striker Laura Streeter stepped up to take the spot-kick but her rifled effort down the centre of the goal was gathered by the keeper.
From here Portchy saw the game out and kept Liphook at bay to secure a vital win. With trips to SO postcode sides Hamble Club and AFC Varsity to come – the Ladies are looking very likely to take the title. The chance to remain unbeaten will be no doubt the cherry on the top.