AFC Portchester held at home by Baffins – but Wessex League title destiny still in their own hands
The Premier Division table-toppers required a penalty leveller from sub Harrison Brook to earn a 1-1 PO postcode derby draw with Baffins Milton Rovers.
Miles Everett - whose goal had knocked Portchester out of the Wessex League Cup on the same ground last October - had earlier fired Rovers into the lead.
With regular penalty taker Brett Pitman sitting in the sin bin, Brook handled the pressure of a massive spot-kick following a foul by Kelvin Robinson.
Despite the draw, though, the Royals still have the destination of the Premier title in their own hands.
Three wins from their last three fixtures will see them reach the 100-point milestone and book their place in next season’s Southern League.
But thanks to Baffins taking two points off Portchester, third-placed Horndean can also win the title.
Though the Deans are now 14 points adrift of the leaders, they do have five games in hand. Against that, they have somehow got to squeeze their last eight fixtures – including next weekend’s titanic visit to the On-Site Group Stadium - into a potentially gruelling 19-day period following the postponement of Saturday’s home game with Bemerton due to a waterlogged pitch.
But if the Royals can beat Horndean - and then Hamble and Bemerton in their last two games - they will be uncatchable. They will have 100 points and the most Horndean could manage is 98.
Baffins boss Danny Thompson said: ‘If someone had offered me a point before kick off, I’d have snapped their hand off.
‘To be honest, I was disappointed we weren’t leading at half-time - (Royals keeper) Steve Mowthorpe made a magnificent save from a Tom Vincent header.
‘In the last 25 minutes they put us under a lot of pressure, but the lads defended superbly.
‘A draw was a fair result, a true reflection of the game. We put in 95 minutes of proper hard graft, it was a real collective effort.’
Horndean play the first of their games in hand on Portchester on Tuesday, at home to Christchurch.
On the same evening, Baffins travel to Westleigh Park for a huge game against Moneyfields.
Victory will take Rovers level on points with fifth-placed Moneys, with both sides having five games left.
Baffins are bidding to equal their best-ever Wessex Premier finish, having claimed fifth spot in 2018/19.
Portchester, meanwhile, host Basingstoke Town on Tuesday in the quarter-final of the Hampshire Senior Cup.
The Royals have been reinstated into the tournament after Farnborough – the holders – were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in February’s 8-0 victory.