Ten goalkeepers in one season and their only win taken away due to an admin error – but hope springs eternal for Portchester Rovers ahead of cup semi-final

They are the team who have used 10 different goalkeepers this season, and whose only win was scrubbed out due to fielding an ineligible player.

By Simon Carter
Monday, 14th February 2022, 8:46 am
Jamie Peters, pictured making a sliding tackle, has been among the outfield players used in goal by Portchester Rovers this season.
Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Jamie Peters, pictured making a sliding tackle, has been among the outfield players used in goal by Portchester Rovers this season. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

They are almost certain to be relegated and their next game is a match against a team aiming to win four trophies.

But hope is springing eternal at Portchester Rovers - marooned adrift at the foot of the Mid-Solent League’s top tier - ahead of a Billy Hill League Cup semi-final tie with Mob Albion at King George V, Cosham.

Rovers manager Chris Yoxall is taking confidence from his side’s last two league games.

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They held Wymering to a 0-0 draw - despite having keeper Tom Allen sent off in the first five minutes for handball outside his area - and at the weekend only lost 2-0 to Meon Milton.

Though it was still a defeat, their 11th in 13 league fixtures, it was a marked improvement on 7-3 and 7-2 losses to Meon earlier in the season.

In their latest match, teenager Steve Christoforou became the 10th different player to appear in goal for Rovers this season.

And that incredible stat goes a long way towards explaining Portchester’s poor league results.

‘Ten keepers in one season is unheard of,’ said Yoxall, who himself went in goal for a match against eventual champions Meon Milton in 2020/21. ‘In this league, you can’t cope with that.

‘In our league you need a decent striker who can score 20 goals a season and you need a reliable keeper. We’ve just not had that.

‘We haven’t had a proper keeper until Tom Allen arrived and last season’s top scorer Bobby Read went to Harvest.’

Yoxall’s scheduled first choice shot-stopper left just a few weeks before 2021/22 started, and he has tried to plug the gap in house.

A succession of outfielders have gone in goal, notably centre half Jamie Peters - most recently after Allen was sent off against Wymering.

Peters had also gone in goal against Harvest Reserves, where Rovers kicked off with only eight players. Though holding Harvest to 0-0 for around half an hour, they eventually crumbled 9-1 - their heaviest loss of the campaign.

‘It’s been a horrific season,’ said Yoxall. ‘The worst I’ve known for a long time.

‘We were one of the better sides before Covid - we’d reached the quarter finals of the Hampshire Cup, were in the two League Cup semis, third in the league.

‘But we lost a lot of players and have never really recovered.

‘Players signed on but they’re not interested if there’s nothing to win.

‘We’ve virtually had to start from scratch again.’

Summing up Rovers’ season, the one game they did win - 2-1 against Division 1 leaders Burrfields - was written off due to fielding an ineligible player.

‘That was down to an admin error,’ Yoxall stated. ‘I’m the secretary as well as the manager - it’s difficult to keep it going when you haven’t got many players ...

‘This club has been around a long time, and we want to keep it going. But it’s the cost of everything …

‘We used to play home games at Warblington School but it’s now £120 a game.

‘That’s why we play at Cosham, it’s around £46 a game there - that’s our Hackney Marshes!

‘There’s a rule that the away teams have to pay half of the costs, at least £40.

‘If that wasn’t in place Saturday afternoon football would fall flat on its face.’

He added: ‘We know we’re going to be relegated, but the cup semi-final has given us a real incentive for the season.

‘We’re building for next season and it would be good to get momentum going.

‘We’d like to do the same as Wigan - get relegated and win a cup!

‘Confidence is high after the last couple of games.

‘I really don’t see any reason why we can’t put one over on Mob, especially seeing they lost to Wymering (2-1) at the weekend.’

Yoxall’s faith is boosted by two recent new signings, midfielder Ikponmwosa Obasuyi - known simply as IK - and striker Chinemerem Nwokenkwo, known as Chinex.

‘They’re both class, they should be playing higher,’ said Yoxall.

Rovers have played Mob twice in the league this season and crashed 6-1 and 6-0 - but, on both occasions, it was 0-0 at half-time.

‘Mob are a fit bunch, all ex-Hampshire League, and Harry Potter scores goals for fun,’ Yoxall declared.

‘But we’re a lot different now, a lot stronger.’

As for Mob, they remain in two other cups – the Mid-Solent’s Father Purcell and the Hampshire Vase – and despite losing to Wymering still have a chance of winning the league title.