Rix targets county glory

Joe Bye, left, set up Nathan Kirby for AFC Portchester's opener
Joe Bye, left, set up Nathan Kirby for AFC Portchester's opener
Stephane Bombelenga netted the leveller. Picture: Keith Woodland

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AFC Portchester boss Graham Rix set his sights on Hampshire Senior Cup glory after watching his side book a place in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Goals either side of half-time from Nathan Kirby and substitute Jack Salter-Vaile saw the Royals progress to the last eight at the expense of 10-man Alresford Town (2-1).

And after being thrown out of the FA Vase for failing to get international clearance for Josh Maddison, Rix targeted county glory to make up for that disappointment.

‘We’ve just beaten a very good team in Alresford, who battled away and never gave up,’ said Rix.

‘Several decisions by the officials really spoilt our chances of putting the match to bed earlier, but these things happen.

‘The problems we’ve had in the past few days after being booted out of the FA Vase has affected us all.

‘But we desperately need to win something this season in terms of silverware, and we fancy our chances in this competition.’

Portchester were close to going a goal down in the opening minutes.

Mike McEnery got clear down the line and his cross, intended for fellow striker Warren Bentley, was so nearly turned into his own net by AFC defender Tom Settle at the far post.

Alresford – last year’s winners of the prestigious trophy – continued to dominate the early exchanges, with Bentley wasting an easy chance when he took McEnery’s pass in his stride, only to lift his shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

On 25 minutes, a even better chance fell to Jamie Musselwhite at the other end. Kirby’s pass set him up for the kill, but the striker buried his shot into the arms of visiting keeper Gerard Hixon from six yards.

After more home pressure, though, the Royals took the lead.

Kirby rose highest at the far post to meet a swirling Joe Bye corner, and headed a bullet-like effort high into the net.

With the interval approaching, Portchester preserved their slender lead with some solid defending.

However, Bentley went close to an equaliser with a half-hit shot that ended up in the side netting.

As the second half got under way, the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Joe White saw red for a foul on Simon Wood.

The forward still managed to go on and find the back of the net, but the referee had already stopped play to deal with White and to give a free-kick.

That decision proved costly to the home side, though, as they soon found themselves on level terms again after Andy Mott scored with a simple tap in.

But justice was soon to be restored on 75 minutes when Portchester regained their lead thanks to a massive gaffe by Hixon.

He failed to deal with Craig Hardy’s free-kick, leaving Salter-Vaile with the easiest of chances to fire into an empty net.

The match, however, was far from won, and it took plenty of determination in the heart of the AFC defence to survive enormous pressure from the visitors until the final whistle.

n Bognor’s Ryman League premier division promotion hopes suffered a setback after they went down 2-1 to Maidstone at Nyewood Lane last night.

Kane Wills was on the mark for the Rocks, who suffered their first home league defeat since August 20.