Final-day woe for Fareham

A late double from Paul Hilton could not secure Fareham's safety
A late double from Paul Hilton could not secure Fareham's safety
Luke Cornish snatched Fareham a point at Olton

Cornish grabs Fareham a point in thrilling game at Olton

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Fareham have been forced into the Conference relegation play-offs after suffering final-day heartache.

The Henry Cort outfit produced a thrilling late comeback to win 4-3 at Whitchurch.

But that was not enough as neighbours Havant could only draw 2-2 at home to Bournville, meaning Fareham missed out on safety by just a single point.

Had Havant triumphed, Nigel Cook’s men would have stayed up on goal difference in Conference West.

Instead, Fareham must now enter a three-team play-off with the second-from-bottom sides in Conference East and Conference West – St Albans and Harborne.

Whoever finishes top in that round-robin format will stay up, while the other two clubs will be relegated.

Despite the cruel blow in the season’s finale, though, head coach Cook insists his side are far from finished.

He said: ‘It was a real blow not to make it.

‘We had club officials at Havant and as soon as we finished our match, the news came through that Bournville had got the point they needed to survive.

‘It’s our fault. We should not have been relying on other teams to do us a favour and we had plenty of opportunities to get out of danger ourselves.

‘But we still have the belief we will survive.

‘We’ve played really well in the past few weeks and very nearly got out of jail.

‘Both the other teams we will be facing in the play-offs have had a torrid time so I think the psychological advantage will be with us.

‘It’s up to us to go out there and fight for it now.’

Fareham certainly showed plenty of resolve to come from behind three times to beat Whitchurch.

Ben Hibberd hit their first leveller, before Craig Peel made it 2-2 shortly after the break.

Fareham looked dead and buried when their Welsh hosts went 3-2 ahead.

But with five minutes left, Paul Hilton bagged a quick-fire double to seal victory for Fareham, before the bad news came through from Havant College.

Fareham will now host Harborne on Saturday, April 9, and travel to St Albans on Saturday, April 16.

Havant’s season ended with that 2-2 draw, although the point was enough to seal a fourth-place finish.

Bournville went ahead in the third minute, only for Andrew Pett to level matters moments later.

The home side then went in front on 40 minutes when Craig Duffy tapped in after Pere Morera’s shot had been saved.

But when Duffy was shown a yellow card, Bournville took advantage to make it 2-2 and seal their survival.

The match was the last for Havant stalwart Andrew Richards who has retired after years of fine service.