The Hampshire Womens County League Division 3 Title (what a mouthful) is the prize that will await AFC Portchester Ladies when they head to Southampton to play rivals AFC Varsity in two weeks time. Anything but a loss for the side with a 100% record will make them champions. There were no signs of pressure though in their latest match on a bank holiday weekend of all weathers as the mercurial Tangos put Hamble Club to the sword.
It’s becoming a running theme that I miss the first goal of the game – i’d happened to be travelling back from Warwickshire so I arrived at the game ten minutes late. No surprise to me that Portchy had already taken the lead, as they love an early goal to set the pace.
Anna Thompson got her first of two from left back, in an afternoon where she had a lot of joy pushing up on the left wing. The build up started with forward Laura Streeter out on the right flank, where she turned the defender and led a charge down the wing. Streeter then hit a low cross along the Hamble back line causing panic, before an oncoming Thompson arriving at the far post was able to strike the ball left footed into the net on the 8 minute mark.
As the first half progressed Hamble became more confident on the ball, aiming to catch the Portchy defence napping with a few long balls over the top. However, little of their opportunities led to clear cut chances and it wasn’t long until Portchy got their second of the game on the 28 minute mark.
Almost a carbon copy of the first goal, Portchy continued to take advantage of Hamble’s high back line by feeding the ball into Ella Wilson. Portchy’s teenage sensation dribbled her way past the defence on the right wing, firing a cross across the box to find an oncoming Thompson once again, who got her second slapping the ball into the top of the net out of the keepers reach.
Portchy continued to maintain possession for the rest of the half but would have wanted to create more chances, the closest coming from Streeter, who received the ball from Thompson on the left before firing a shot just wide of the left hand post.
However, Manager Mark Dugan’s words of wisdom at half time clearly kicked the ladies of PO16 into action in the second half – with goals coming thick and fast.
Portchy really began to exploit the high back line of Hamble further, with Wilson being a continuous menace down the right flank which prompted the referee to dish out a yellow for a defender who scythed through Ella, unable to deal with her pace and trickery.
However, the third goal arrived on the 60 minute mark when some tidy work from centre back TJ Hewitt on the edge of the opposition box led her to feed in Streeter attacking from the left wing. She then drilled a low cross into the 6 yard box where an oncoming Bella Longyear, who had been told to ensure she pushed further forward in the first half, was rewarded with her positioning as she was able to side foot volley the ball straight past the Hamble keeper.
It was from here on out that the floodgates opened. On 66 minutes, Hamble were unable to deal with Wilson’s relentless attacking on the wing, as she turned the right back and powered towards the byline before delivering a inviting cross that the Hamble centre back just couldn’t help herself to, as she glanced a header past her own keeper.
Hamble barely had time to recover before the next Portchy goal was in the net to make it five. After 68 minutes Portchy won a corner. A delivery from Captain Lynsey Crewe was met in the box by the oncoming head of centre back Sam Jennings, which was blocked by the Hamble defenders which led to a scramble in the box for the ball. The ball was worked out of the central scrum out to the left of the box where Longyear was there in space to fling a leg at the ball which travelled across the goalmouth. The defence did not deal with the shot and it found its way past the keeper.
Portchy were now well and truly in the mood to keep adding to their monstrous goal difference and the sixth goal sparked jubilation in the dugout. Chantelle Robinson had just come on as a substitute and had gone to do a job upfront, even though her usual role is between the sticks. However, she clearly was feeling confident after her penalty win last week as she managed to make the net ripple. The play started out on the right with a ruthless Wilson once again beating her defender before delivering a perfectly weighted cross into the centre of the box, where an unmarked Robinson struck the ball with the outside of her boot in an unorthodox fashion. This left the Hamble keeper bamboozled and unable to deal with the strike, which nestled in the right hand side of the net. The Portchy team rushed Robinson as she made her way back to her own half – showing the fantastic team spirit that has been a key facet in this squad’s success this campaign.
Portchy were still not done and had time for one more. On the 80 minute mark Laura Streeter received the ball on the left and began to make a marauding run towards the box. Cries from the Portchy bench to ‘square the ball’ came but Streeter just kept going and before she knew it she was one on one with the keeper. From here she hit a curled shot into the far side of the goal to wrap up the scoring for the Tangos – showing the quality of her finishing.
Two games remain for the Royals – a draw from Liphook and AFC Varisty would have given them the title. However, a 3-1 win from the Southampton side means that Portchy will have to wait, but no doubt they will be relishing the opportunity to win the league against their closest challengers on their patch in two weeks time.