Potter’s latest hat-trick in vain as Meon Milton stage incredible recovery to take huge step towards Mid-Solent League title glory
Harry Potter’s fourth Mid-Solent League hat-trick was in vain as Meon Milton staged a sensational comeback to take a firm grip on the Division 1 title race.
The previous week, Potter had fired a first-half hat-trick to give Mob Albion a 3-2 victory over FC Strawberry at Westleigh Park.
Back at the same ground, the ex-Clanfield and US Portsmouth striker netted twice inside the opening six minutes as Mob, who started the game three points adrift of Meon, took quick command.
But Bickram Singh’s unbeaten Milton outfit staged one of the comebacks of the grassroots season to run out 6-4 winners.
‘It was an absolutely incredible game,’ said Singh.
‘They took us by surprise in the first 10 minutes, they moved the ball really quickly and we just weren’t awake.
‘We were just stunned, but the boys showed great character and played some good football.
‘But I was quite shocked we scored three goals so quickly.’
Potter’s first goal came in the first minute, a neat backheel from Andy Brown setting him up for a simple finish.
Meon keeper Lewis Fisher saved well from right back Matt Winslade, Potter doubled the lead after Harry Cottle and Brown had worked the opening.
From looking all at sea defensively, remarkably Meon were leading 12 minutes later.
Bayley Whitcombe started the comeback, netting from close range in the eighth minute after keeper James Griffiths had fumbled a Dan Edwards free-kick.
A breathless start continued when Adam Beckett levelled four minutes later, and on 18 minutes Meon were incredibly in front when centre half Chris Foy headed in a corner.
Potter looked to have levelled with his second successive first-half treble, but his close range effort was controversially ruled out by an offside flag.
Potter was furious, and Mob boss Alex Bone loudly condemned the flag-raising as ‘embarrassing.’
Sadly, for Albion, VAR has not yet worked its way down to grassroots football and the incident was to prove a turning point; instead of being level at 3-3, Mob ended the half 5-2 in arrears.
First, Barry Jeans broke Mob’s offside trap, running 30 yards unchallenged into the penalty area before calmly rolling a low shot past Griffiths.
After Whitcombe had tried his luck with a dipping shot from just inside the Mob half, the same player added to Meon’s eye-popping recovery act on the stroke of half-time.
It was Mob’s turn to hit back in the second half, Potter completing his latest treble with a 25-yard lob on 49 minutes.
Mob further cut the deficit on 66 minutes when Cam Palin arrived at the back post to stab in a Potter cross.
As Meon continued to be pegged back, Brown’s 30-yard effort wasn’t too far over, Fisher saved from sub Mike Newman and Palin fired wide.
‘I knew the game wasn’t over at half-time,’ said Singh. ‘I knew Mob would come out strong, but we could have had two or three more at the end.’
With Bone forced to sacrifice a defender in the closing stages, large gaps began appearing in the Mob defence.
Meon sub Dan Gedling, put through by Aran Singh, saw a low shot well saved before Griffiths raced out of his area to stop Whitcombe.
But Mob always looked likely to get caught on the counter and with virtually the last kick of an extraordinary contest, Whitcombe - again in acres of space - sent a lovely 35-yard chip over a stranded Griffiths and just under the bar.
Like Potter, it was his second hat-trick in a row.
Meon are now six points clear with just five games left, and a first MSL title is now theirs to lose.
Meon (squad): Fisher, Foy, A Edwards, Futcher, D Edwards, Kreisz, Beckett, Whitcombe, Jeans, B Singh, A Singh, Berogna, Gedling, Bailey.
Mob (squad): Griffiths, Peters, Gurney, Byerley, Hayes, Prew, Palin, Winslade, McIntosh, Johnston, Potter, Cottle, Brown, Keogh, Newman.