The penultimate game of AFC Portchester season against Basingstoke Town ended in 2-2 draw on Sunday in the scorching Hampshire sun.
The result came of the back of a 12-0 defeat at the hands of Portsmouth side – which while providing an invaluable experience for many of Portchy’s young breakthrough stars this year, it would also have been motivation to get back track with an attempt to maintain their 100% record in the league.
However, Basingstoke are no mugs – with Portchy only managing a 1-0 win at the Wicor Rec for the season opener – and they proved that they are good side on Sunday.
The journey to Basingstoke started at Portchy station at 9:30am. It’s been a long while since I’ve stood on Platform 1 to follow a team away – so the anticipation was great to have a big bank holiday day out.
After getting on the train, myself and fellow Arancione, Nathan, had a couple of Cisk Radlers to start the day off lightly (my rule is no beer normally before McDonald’s breakfast is over) before moving onto the Asahi – a staple of our friends out in Kyoto – one of our fan partner clubs.
After an hour and watching the Hampshire countryside hurtle past we made it to Basingstoke. Unfortunately before any general merriment could begin on the way to the ground, I had to resolve a wardrobe malfunction… I’d manage to rip my shorts on the train – so a quick half cut trip to Primark for some cheap shorts was needed! Needless to say I certainly haven’t missed visiting this place over the lockdown – so it was a quick in and out job. Starting the day off well!
Crisis averted we made tracks for Winklebury, a football complex owned by the Hampshire FA and also the home of Basingstoke Town since the sad demise of their previous home, The Camrose. I do hope the recent fans campaign ,which would see them return to the stadium, is successful. As it a sorry state to see what is a classic non league ground in such disrepair.
Upon arriving, the local pub was closed and with not a bar at the ground in sight – alarm bells were ringing with still an hour and a half until kick off. Luckily – a Basingstoke player, already kitted up, was unlocking the stadium and was kind enough to direct us to a Beefeater about 10 minutes down the road. This is what non league football is about and big credit to Basingstoke who were fantastic hosts all afternoon.
The Spruce Goose Beefeater was ideal in the end – not a far distance from the ground and standard pub food – a good place to make tracks for if any Groundhoppers are ticking off Basingstoke Town next season. A couple of Morrettis plus Nathan’s favourite, Halloumi Fries, and we were ready for the match.
After traipsing back up the hill to the ground, we got the flags up and were ready for the match. Winklebury is not a bad home for Basingstoke, considering they were forced from a classic non league ground. It has a grandstand, a seated terrace behind one goal and a covered stand behind the other – a modern ground for the ladies to play at. Albeit a little soulless and akin to a School 4G, with the lines of over sports marked out on the fake turf. Nevertheless many clubs at this level would be lucky to have a facility like it.
Portchy arrived at Winklebury with only 12 available players – several key players nursing knocks from the big game vs Pompey in the week. With the league wrapped up and missing stars, this did hand opportunities to the Portchy youth cohort who have stepped up brilliantly this season. The ‘Class of Covid’ – the quartet of Ella Wilson, Bella Longyear, Ava Colbourne and keeper Sarah Kelsall all started the match. All players are under 18 and have made a real impression on the first team this season – with Wilson being the breakout star. No doubt playing as a group from the start would of been of great value to them going into next season.
The game started fairly evenly with both teams sharing possession with attacks breaking down in the final third, with arguably Basingstoke having the better of the opening 10 minutes. However it was Portchy’s young talisman, Ella Wilson, who opened the scoring after 9 minutes. Wilson, using her trademark pace and dribbling ability that has caused havoc for many defences in the league this season, took on the Basingstoke centre back centrally, knocking it past her and getting inside her and away on goal inside the box. This left the goalkeeper to beat, where Ella cooly slotted the ball passes the oncoming keeper to make the net ripple.
With the lead secured, Portchy grew in confidence and began a period of dominance. Young centre back Ava Colbourne having the best chance, firing a strong header over from a corner.
However, Basingstoke were not going to let this game drift away and give Portchy a processional afternoon. They drew level when Beth Lowe walloped in a long range strike on 33 minutes.
Following this, water breaks came and went, possession traded and half chances created – but neither team could edge a lead in a tightly contested affair.
Finally a 2nd goal came for Portchy following some trickery on the inside of box by Ella Wilson. Trying to beat the defender, Wilson was brought down in a scramble, leading to the official pointing to the spot. Experienced Striker, Laura Streeter, stepped up to take the spot kick. After missing her last penalty strike vs Liphook, Streeter made no mistake this time by drilling the ball past the diving keeper to give Portchy a 2-1 lead.
Celebrations were not to last long though as Portchy had their hearts in their mouths two minutes later when Basingstoke slapped in a 20 yard strike on 77 minutes. However, the linesman had flagged for offside – a let off for Portchy.
Nevertheless, seeing the ball hit the net galvanised Basingstoke. They came back at Portchy before scoring for real around the 85th minute mark to spark jubilations amongst the players and their touch line.
The goal came where Basingstoke hit Portchy on the break, playing the ball down the right to find Carla Mullan in the box off centre of the goal. However, this and the onrushing Sarah Kelsall did not deter the Basingstoke player, with a deft dink over the keeper bringing the game back level.
Following this, Portchy pushed for a winner and had a few opportunities. The best falling to left back Anna Thompson playing makeshift forward where the ball ricocheted to her in the box but she blazed over.
The final whistle blew and with it went Portchy’s 100% record. However, the youthful side did themselves proud in the heat and off the back of chasing the ball around against Pompey Women. Basingstoke showed themselves to be a strong side and were good value for the point.
After the game had finished, we journeyed back to the town centre and had an hour wait for our train back to PO16. A Tesco meal deal, a four pack of San Miguel and good company in the late afternoon sun out on a bench on the Basingstoke train platform is a groundhopper’s Elysium. No need for Tik Tok – I value my attention span. It’s good to have away days back!
Portchy Ladies will conclude their season away at AFC Varsity next Sunday in a rescheduled match looking to finish the league season unbeaten. It would be great to see as many Tangerine fans there to celebrate a fantastic debut season for our Ladies.