One-man advantage proves key as Meon win battle of the strugglers

Theo Lewis opened the scoring for the Hawks against Merstham. Picture: Habibur Rahman (170289-50)

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Horndean remain rooted to the bottom of the table after paying a heavy price for turning up a player short as Meon eased their own relegation worries with an 8-3 win that was settled in only the closing stages.

Meon went close to taking an early lead, with only a slight deflection taking a John Joseph effort behind for a corner.

And from the set piece, Meon took the lead. Rob White rose to power his header into the goal from Joseph’s delivery.

The 10 men were defending doggedly but it was 2-0 midway through the first half. Joseph was allowed space on the edge of the area and he placed a measured shot beyond the keeper.

Horndean nearly fashioned an instant response. Sam Jolley broke clear but flashed his shot wide of the post.

Two minutes later, though, Horndean were back in the game. Brad Woodman curled in a corner from the right and big defender Andy Duffin climbed to plant a firm header into the corner of the net.

Meon restored their two-goal cushion on the half-hour mark. Danny Cunningham’s neat dummy left Jimmy Smith with all the time he needed to pick his spot from 15 yards.

After Horndean keeper Paul Charlton had produced a fine save to deny Dean Montague, his side scored their second.

Woodman was again the provider with a long free-kick into the box and Jolley flicked an unchallenged header past the keeper.

But Meon got their fourth before the break. A Horndean attack broke down and, although Cunningham’s cross was headed to the edge of the area, Joseph fired an unstoppable half-volley past Charlton.

Meon’s fifth came on the hour. Dan Greenwood’s cross from the left was met sweetly in the volley by Smith to leave Charlton helpless.

Horndean refused to lie down and Michael McCready scored a superb individual goal, sprinting forward from the halfway line, broke through three tackles and slotted home.

Only an excellent save from Meon keeper Sam Wicks denied McCready after Meon were caught short at the back.

Meon were looking a little rattled and Wicks had to be alert to claw the ball away from Jolley as he shaped to shoot.

It should have been game over with 10 minutes left. Joseph was unmarked but delayed his finish several times and Duffin cleared off the line when he finally elected to shoot.

Meon scored twice in a minute soon after, though. Cunningham received a crossfield ball, sold Charlton a dummy and slide home from an angle.

Then sub Jimmy Tregarthen fired in off the post from 12 yards.

And it was Tregarthen who finished off the scoring with a close-range finish against a tiring Horndean defence.

Meanwhile, Waterlooville Social Club closed in on the title after a crucial 2-1 victory over Baffins Rovers, while AFC Hereford came away from St Helena Bobs with a 2-0 triumph.

Portsmouth Saturday League premier division

MEON UNITED 8

HORNDEAN UNITED 3

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