Harry Potter’s wizardry gives Mob Albion victory over Strawberry in great advert for Portsmouth area grassroots football
Harry Potter fired his third hat-trick of the Mid-Solent League season to turn the Mid-Solent League Division 1 title race into a two-horse affair.
The Mob Albion striker fired a superb first half treble as his side twice fought back from behind to beat FC Strawberry 3-2 at Westleigh Park in a game that was a fantastic advert for Portsmouth area grassroots football.
Mob remain three points behind leaders Meon Milton, who handed out a 7-2 drubbing to Wymering just a week after drawing 3-3 with them. But Strawberry are now six points behind Meon having played two games more.
Mob can draw level with Meon if they beat them in next weekend’s Division 1 showdown at Westleigh Park - but they need to win by five clear goals to take over top spot on goal difference.
There was little to choose between Mob and Strawberry when they met last October - a last-minute winner giving Mob a 3-2 victory.
That was an eventful game where Albion received five sin bins - four for players and one for boss Alex Bone - and at one point were down to eight men.
The scoreline was exactly the same in the eagerly-awaited return fixture, but this time there was hardly any dissent and just two bookings (Mob pair Scott Johnston and Andy Brown seeing yellow for clumsy rather than malicious tackles).
Mob celebrated their MSL debut last September with a 12-2 thrashing of Rowner - Potter grabbing four of the goals.
He has subsequently belted four more in a 7-2 victory over Carberry and doubles against Wymering and East Lodge.
Potter had fired a rare blank in his first game back after lockdown against Burrfields the previous week, though he had enough chances - including a first half penalty he fired wide.
This time, though, Strawberry were on the receiving end of a finishing masterclass by a striker obviously too good for the level he is at.
Potter - one of numerous Mob players who used to play together for Clanfield in the Hampshire Premier League’s top flight - struck first less than 20 seconds after Strawberry had taken a 12th minute lead.
Connor Mansfield used his pace to get past Matt Winslade and round keeper James Griffiths before netting from a tight angle.
The Strawbs’ joy was incredibly short-lived as Potter latched onto a lofted pass from Joe McIntosh to poke the ball past keeper Kex Dixey.
Mansfield restored the lead on 17 minutes, before Potter turned the game on its head with two more goals in the space of three minutes.
First, McIntosh produced a superbly-timed tackle on Ryan Chandler on the edge of the Mob box before another long pass saw Potter shrug off the challenges of Alex Gauntlett and Frank Scott to cut inside and score from close range.
Shortly after, Potter completed his treble with a stunning 25-yard shot that flew over the head of Dixey after Johnston had beaten two challenges to set him up.
It was a goal worthy of a much higher standard than the Mid-Solent League as indeed was the game.
Here were two teams producing a competitive, enjoyable game that wouldn’t have looked out of place one or two rungs up the non-league pyramid.
‘I think both of those teams would be comfortable in the top half of the Hampshire Premier League Senior Division,’ said Bone, who used to manage Clanfield in that division.
‘Most of the Strawberry team could play at a higher level - particularly Connor Mansfield.’
Bone admitted Mob had left themselves ‘too open’ during the first 45 minutes.
‘We talked at half-time and the plan for the second half was not to be as open, the onus was on them to come at us and we’d looked to hit them on the break.
‘It was a similar game to the first one - they started very quickly in both games and we were a bit hurried in possession. Once we settled down, I felt we were in control.’
Potter could have had his third four-goal haul of 2020/21 five minutes into the second half. But after being put through by Mike Prew, Dixey stood up well to parry his effort.
The dangerman went close again when he cut in from the left, but saw a shot deflected by a defender onto the crossbar and out for a corner.
Under the glare of the floodlights, the second half was less entertaining than the first in terms of clear chances and goalmouth excitement.
But the quality remained generally high.
Mansfield was less of a threat, compared to the first 20 minutes, but Mob defenders had to be alert to quickly crowd him out after the ball had found him in the six-yard box.
Mob also looked less potent going forward once Potter had tired and been withdrawn, but the Albion defence – including Dan Hayes, who played under Dave Carter at both Horndean and Moneyfields – were given few uncomfortable moments late on.
Mob: Griffiths, Winslade, Peters, Byerley, Hayes, Johnston, Prew, McIntosh, Palin, Potter, Brown. Subs: Penfold, Newman, Keogh, Kirby.
Strawberry: Dixey, Scott, Backhouse, Hepworth, Stephens, Hoare, Saville, Chandler, Holt, Mansfield, Newell. Subs: Fiddler, Cobb, Patrick.