Former Paulsgrove pair run riot as Fareham Town hammer Wessex leaders Alesford 7-1
LUKE Slade and Josh Benfield played starring roles as Fareham destroyed Wessex League leaders Alresford on a remarkable afternoon at rainswept Cams Alders.
Slade bagged four goals and Benfield netted twice as Pete Stiles’ Reds romped to one of the the most amazing Premier Division results for years.
After falling behind early on to a goal from ex-Gosport winger Mike Gosney, Fareham quickly levelled - and then struck six times in a barely believable second half to run out incredible 7-1 winners.
It was Town’s best league victory since they thrashed Christchurch by the same score at Cams Alders in January 2015.
And it hammered out a message to the rest of the Wessex League that this Fareham side could claim the club’s first top five finish since 2003.
After all, they have set their bar pretty high now.
On a truly filthy afternoon with driving rain and high winds virtually all game, Alresford - who arrived five points clear at the top with nine wins from 10 matches - took a ninth minute lead.
Keeper Dec McCarthy’s punch only went as far as Gosney on the edge of the penalty area, and his low shot took a deflection on its way in.
Anyone who thought this would be another routine win for the table-toppers, though, was to be proved totally misguided.
Undaunted, Fareham were level within two minutes through a lovely solo goal from Slade. Picking the ball up, he skipped past a couple of challenges before lashing a shot across Jordi Valero and into the far corner.
The visiting keeper had to rush out to foil Benfield in a first half which was relatively entertaining despite the atrocious weather, but featuring few real chances.
But all that was to change in an astonishing second period, starting with Slade bursting past the last defender and netting confidently within two minutes of the restart.
Benfield - who, like Slade, was recruited from Hampshire Premier Leaguers Paulsgrove - made it 3-1 five minutes later, lobbing a shot over Valero who had committed himself too early.
In the words of Fareham boss Stiles, Alresford ‘lost the plot’ for a while and picked up four bookings in just over 10 minutes - Luke Dempsey, Shaun Dallimore, Duarte Martins and Craig Harding all ending up in the book,
Fareham extended their lead on 78 minutes when Benfield’s constant pressing led to a poor back pass which Slade - who had scored just three times this season beforehand - latched onto for his hat-trick.
The hosts continued to pour forward, and Benfield poked home his second goal from a Lewis Stockford pass on 81 minutes.
It took the striker’s tally to seven in five games, and five in eight days - after netting in a 3-0 league win at Fleet the week before and twice in a midweek Russell Cotes Cup victory over Romsey Town.
There was still more to come, though, and it was 6-1 on 86 minutes when the best passing move of the game ended with left back Will Harris powering in a far post header.
And this, remember, against an Alresford side who had been protecting a 100 per cent away winning Wessex run this season.
A result which will be talked about for years by the Fareham faithful was completed when Benfield broke through on the right and centred for Slade to net from close range.