Rix’s Royals fail to crash the championship party

AFC Portchester midfielder Jake Thomson   Picture: Allan Hutchings
AFC Portchester midfielder Jake Thomson Picture: Allan Hutchings
Wes Fogden. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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AFC Portchester finished their Wessex League premier division campaign in defeat but only after threatening to gatecrash Sholing’s championship party.

An early Nick Watts goal proved the difference between the well-matched sides in a proverbial game of two halves at the Silverlake Arena.

The visitors – who finished the season in a respectable eighth position – were outplayed in the opening 45 minutes but deserved to come away with a share of the spoils after an improved second-half display.

‘I wasn’t happy with the first half performance but we changed things around and came out stronger in the second half,’ said Portchester boss Graham Rix.

‘We played some great football in the second half and we maybe deserved something out of the game with the way we played.

‘We knew it was going to be a difficult match against a team on a high.

‘We just wanted to keep pushing forward and search for that breakthrough goal.’

It only took five minutes for newly-crowned champions Sholing to take advantage of a slip from Portchester midfielder Jake Thomson.

The dangerous Watts collected the ball before outpacing the visiting defence and showing great composure to slot home the only goal of the game.

And it was the pace of Watts that caused all sorts of problems for the Royals in the first half.

The second period was a different story, though, with Rix’s men the better side and more likely to score.

It was that man Thomson who was at the centre of their best opportunities, trying to redeem himself for his first-half mishap.

Try as they might, though, the Royals were unable to breach a resolute Sholing side who lost just once at home all season and recorded an impressive 19 wins from 21 games in front of their own supporters.

Nevertheless, Rix was pleased with the Royals’ performances throughout the campaign,

He said: ‘We’ve only been at this level for two years now and have done really well, proving that we can grind out results and play some good football along the way.

‘We’ve got to build again next year.

‘We’ve had some great performances throughout the season so overall I’m really impressed with the lads.

‘There is a fantastic spirit and that shows in the players’ performances.’

The Wicor Rec side will now look to close out their season in style by making the most of home advantage against rivals Fareham Town in the Russell-Cotes Cup final on Wednesday night (7.45pm).

Rix said: ‘It will be a tough game but we have to prepare the best we can and play to our strengths and hopefully get a result to cap off a great season.’