THE promotion challenge from Portsmouth & Southsea continued after they edged a hard-fought local derby at United Services in Hampshire League division one.
Kieron Dunstan’s side were given a thorough examination before squeezing to a 26-run win at Burnaby Road.
The batting of brothers, Matt Benfield (88) and Tom Benfield (65) along with the bowling of Jack Peach, who took four for 25, gave the visitors the edge.
For Services it was a missed opportunity as they had the visitors in trouble on more than one occasion during the game.
In the end, Dunstan was relieved to see his team triumph.
‘We had to battle hard for this one,’ said Dunstan.
‘For the first 25 overs of both innings United Services were much the better team.
‘At the business end, however, we made it count.
‘After being put into bat we hardly scored a run in the first seven overs and their bowlers did well.
‘Luckily for us, the Benfield brothers came to our rescue.
‘At one stage we didn’t look like we would get 150.
‘So to get 245 runs we were over the moon.’
The visitors troubles started when Steve Clements departed without scoring after falling to a superb catch in the slips by home captain Matt Easton.
In-form batsman Jack Davies followed soon.
The Benfield brothers, however, took the initiative back off Services with a century-plus partnership in the middle overs.
‘Matt is a very composed cricketer who looks very much at ease at the crease,’ said Dunstan
‘He rarely looks in any trouble.
‘Tom is more of a hard-hitting batsman and I can’t think of anyone better at punishing bad balls.
‘They have both been at the club for as long as I can remember and are very much the life and soul of the place.’
In reply, Services duo Tom May (36) and Mark Toogood (63) put on nearly 100 runs for the first wicket.
Dunstan admitted prospects didn’t look great at that stage.
He added: ‘At tea they were up with the rate and looking like coasting it.
‘It was only when we brought on our fifth-change bowler Jack Peach that it changed.
‘He removed four of their top five batsmen and turned the game back in our favour.
‘Suddenly we were able to put the squeeze on Services and the game petered out in the final ten overs.’
The defeat is the third in succession for Services.
Skipper Easton felt it was a case of a missed opportunity.
He said: ‘We had our chances.
‘It is important we halt the slide and need to pick up more points.’