FA Vase winner Wort rescues AFC Portchester from embarrassing exit against lower division Bemerton
AFC Portchester were rescued from FA Vase embarrassment - and their third cup exit in eight days - by a man who has experienced the thrill of winning the tournament.
Six years ago, Lee Wort’s goals helped Sholing become the third - and last - Wessex League club to win the Vase.
In his first Vase tie for the Royals, Wort struck twice as Mick Catlin’s men came from 0-2 down against lower division Bemerton Heath Harlequins to win 3-2.
That booked them a fascinating second qualifying round tie against another Wessex Division 1 club, US Portsmouth, on October 10 at the Victory Stadium.
Bemerton led 2-0 after only 19 minutes at the weekend as Portchester faced up to going out of all this season’s cups in the space of just over a week.
With no Hampshire Senior Cup, Russell Cotes Cup or Portsmouth Senior Cup in their fuxture list in 2020/21, that left just the FA Cup, Vase and Wessex League Cup.
The Royals lost 3-0 at Wimborne in the FA Cup the previous Saturday before going down 3-2 at home to Horndean three days later in the Wessex Cup.
A fourth straight defeat - Portchester had also lost their last league game to neighbours Fareham - would have set alarm bells ringing at The Crest Finance Stadium.
They were starting to chime when Bemerton took a seventh minute lead, left back Eddie Perrett cutting inside and hitting a shot which took a deflection and arrowed into Brad Snelling’s top corner.
The bells were ringing even louder shortly after when assistant manager Lee Molyneaux gave away a penalty from one of Perrett’s many long throws, wrestling a Bemerton player to the floor.
Referee Martin Bloor had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and Justin Bennett stepped up to score his fifth goal against Wessex Premier opposition this season.
Bennett’s double strikes had helped Bemerton knock Horndean (2-1) and Shaftesbury (6-1) out of the FA Cup and Wessex League Cup respectively, and another higher division scalp – this time on the road - was on the cards.
But Wort conjured up a quick response, bringing the hosts back into contention just three minutes after they had fallen 2-0 down.
There appeared no immediate danger when he picked the ball up 30 yards out, but he was allowed to advance to the edge of the penalty box before firing a low shot past keeper Patrick Creese and into the corner.
It was a moment of inspiration from someone who knows exactly where the net is - 256 first team goals for Sholing in 472 appearances tells you everything you need to know.
Bloor awarded his second spot-kick five minutes before half-time when debutant Rudi Plummer - signed from Moneyfields - was needlessly fouled near the byline just inside the penalty box.
Though Creese dived the right way to save Steve Ramsey’s spot-kick, the loose ball was played back into the centre and young Joe Johnson struck his fourth goal in six matches in 2020/21.
It is a superb start to first team football for the midfielder, who only made a handful of appearances for Portchester’s reserve team last season.
The Royals maintained their momentum after the restart and completed their comeback in the 48th minute.
Craig Harding, down near the corner flag with two defenders in close attention, did well to find left-back Rob Evans whose cross was nodded in by Wort.
The striker had got in front of his marker to head into the bottom corner - a ‘superb’ goal according to Catlin.
After that, neither keeper had much to do in the way of saves.
Bennett - 47 goals for Bemerton last season - was kept quiet by a defence well organised by Molyneaux, and apart from his penalty didn’t have a sight of goal.
Wort could have completed a hat-trick late on when he was clean through and with Creese well off his line, but instead of going for a lob he took an extra touch and the chance was gone.
The furthest Portchester have ever gone in the Vase is the third round in both 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Have the Royals got the squad to take them a lot further down the road which leads to a Wembley final this season?
Portchester: Snelling, Hibberd, Evans, Castle (Dempsey), Molyneaux, Hanratty, Ramsey, Plummer (Greaves), Harding, Wort, Johnson.