Basingstoke Town 2-2 AFC Portchester
By Lewis Millington
The penultimate game of AFC Portchester Ladies season in the Hampshire County League against Basingstoke Town Women 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 a professional Portsmouth Women 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.
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, was the venue for the game. I do hope the recent fans campaign, which would see them return to their spiritual home is successful as it a sorry state to see what is a classic non-league ground in such disrepair.
Winklebury is not a bad home for Basingstoke, 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 names were nursing knocks from the big game against 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’ 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 have 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 nine 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 Wilson coolly slotted the ball past 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 second 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 against 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.
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 on the break as Basingstoke played 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 Town player, with a deft dink over the keeper bringing the game back level.
Following this, Portchester 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.
Portchy Ladies will conclude their season away at AFC Varsity next Sunday in a rescheduled match looking to finish the league season unbeaten.