Strike ace Zak Willett bags double to continue Horndean's flying Wessex Premier start and avenge AFC Portchester FA Cup defeat
Striker Zak Willett struck twice to help fire Horndean to a 3-1 Wessex League Premier Division victory at AFC Portchester.
Along with Willett's sublime double, who took his scoring tally to 12 goals in 11 games this term, fellow forward Connor Duffin bagged the opener to put the Deans on the way to victory on a rain-soaked evening at The OnSite Group Stadium.
Portchester striker Lee Wort did offer the hosts a glimmer of hope, netting with a little more than 20 minutes left, but Michael Birmingham's men held on for a sixth win in eight league matches so far to leave them in fourth.
For Horndean, it avenged their 4-2 FA Cup defeat at the same ground last month while they managed to get the better of former manager Dave Carter.
And Birmingham believes it showed the steeliness the Deans have as a team this season as they came away victorious.
The Horndean boss said: ‘Getting beat here 4-2 in the cup hurt - it hurt and I’m not going to lie - it’s not revenge but I’m fed up with people thinking we’re just a soft touch. We’ve got a bit of a backbone about us and we showed it again.
‘At the end of the day, you need a little bit of luck as well, we scored two good goals, we got our little bit of luck as well. I thought we well deserved the three points.
‘We’ve been working hard, our patterns of play are starting to gel a little bit, but one thing I won’t accept anything less than giving me 100 per cent.
‘If they (the players) look me in the eye at the end of the game, win, lose or draw, and they’ve given me everything then I’ll accept that.’
The torrential rain throughout made things tricky for both teams, but Horndean pounced to strike two quickfire goals just before the break.
Duffin reaped the rewards of the ball dropping kindly in his path to fire past Steve Mowthorpe and edge the visitors ahead on 43 minutes.
It got better in first half stoppage-time for the Deans as, after Ben Anderson played the ball into Willett, he masterfully found the corner from just outside the area.
The goal of the evening arrived four minutes shy of the hour mark and it came from Willett. He took the ball in his path prior to unleashing an unstoppable drive which found the top corner from more than 20 yards.
Wort was quickest to react after Cameron Scott could only parry Jake Raine's strike as the Royals made it 3-1 on 66 minutes.
Portchester dominated possession for the remainder but couldn't find an all important second goal to make things really nervy for the visitors.
Despite a second successive defeat, Carter felt the showing against the Deans was a marked improvement on the performance at Moneyfields in the FA Vase on Saturday - both of the Portchester bosses former clubs.
He said: ‘Saturday (at Moneyfields) I was disappointed with the way we played, we played well tonight (against Horndean), it was tough conditions for both sides.
‘We gifted two goals right before half time and gave ourselves an absolute mountain to climb second half. They were two poor goals to concede.
‘I was very disappointed with two minutes in that game. I thought we dominated the game second half without creating too many clear-cut chances.’
AFC Portchester: Mowthorpe; DaCosta, Pearce, Roundell, Colson, Ridge, Raine, McCreadie, Bailey, Wort, Roberts. Subs: Pennery (Raine, 71), Ramsey, Sharp, Dinsmore, Barker.
Horndean: Scott; Taw, Lee, Field, Miller, Howes, Hookey, Anderson, Lis, Willett, Duffin. Subs: Dempsey (Lee, 13), Tierney (Lis, 54), Kimber (Anderson, 84), Emeney, Burgess.