Late heartbreak for youthful Fareham

Katie Spooner is aiming high for City of Portsmouth Ladies. Picture: Keith Woodland

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Fareham suffered late heartbreak as National League conference west leaders Cardiff & UWIC denied them a point on Saturday.

The Henry Cort School outfit produced a brave performance in Wales, only for a goal in the dying seconds to send them to a 2-1 defeat.

A heavily-depleted squad crossed the Severn Bridge – shorn of five regular first-team players due to injury and unavailability.

It handed a great opportunity to some of the younger members of the club to step up and gain experience at National League level. And they didn’t disappoint.

Fareham were slow to get going, though – understandable given the number of changes to their personnel.

Cardiff pinned the visitors back and, with five minutes on the clock, they took full advantage as Mark Whatling converted a short corner.

But Nigel Cook’s young outfit responded immediately to the setback.

James Seager led the charge, hassling and harrying the Welsh outfit into mistakes.

And it paid off handsomely as Fareham levelled.

An aerial ball from James Morris found Alex Boxall behind the Cardiff defence and he slotted the ball past the home keeper to make it 1-1.

A shoulder injury to centre-back John Price then forced Fareham into further reshuffling.

But thanks to some fine goalkeeping from George Harris, they reached the interval all-square with the division’s pacesetters.

Much like the first period, Cheltenham began the second half in determined fashion.

Fareham held firm, though, and even managed to deliver a series of raids on the home goal.

Boxall, who scored a hat-trick against south coast rivals Havant earlier this term, had the best chance to fire them into an unlikely lead.

He rounded the Cardiff goalkeeper, only to be fouled.

But, as he went to ground, he got a reverse-stick shot away, only for the goal-bound effort to be cleared off the line by a covering defender.

Fareham were not finished there, though.

Ben Hibberd and Seager continued to push forward and threaten the Cardiff rearguard.

But while they launched a clutch of attacks, they could not find the cutting edge to open up the home side’s defence.

Instead, it was Cardiff who found the killer blow three minutes from time.

Richard Howson deflected the ball home to ensure the spoils remained in Wales and his side stayed top of the table.

It was a heartbreaking climax for the young Fareham outfit, though.

Having battled so bravely for 67 minutes, defeat was tough on the much-changed squad – who slipped to fourth from bottom in the table.

They have a golden opportunity to get back on track this weekend, though, when they entertain Bristol Firebrands.

New arrivals in conference west this term, Firebrands have yet to record a win – shipping 19 goals in five games to date.