US Portsmouth facing nervous Wessex League run-in after being sucked into top flight relegation battle

US Portsmouth boss Fraser Quirke insisted he is not ‘panicking’ just yet after seeing his side sucked into a Wessex League top flight relegation dogfight.
Josh Bailey, pictured in action for Moneyfields Reserves, struck twice on his first US Portsmouth start. Picture: Sam StephensonJosh Bailey, pictured in action for Moneyfields Reserves, struck twice on his first US Portsmouth start. Picture: Sam Stephenson
Josh Bailey, pictured in action for Moneyfields Reserves, struck twice on his first US Portsmouth start. Picture: Sam Stephenson

US have led in each of their last three home games, but have ended up with just a solitary point.

That has left them four points ahead of second-bottom Pagham - the bottom two go down - and the Sussex club have two games in hand.

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And among Pagham’s remaining games are a Thursday home fixture with Portland United and a trip to rock bottom Alresford.

US have been the masters of their own downfall in recent weeks, conceding two late goals to crash 3-2 at home to Portland and then throwing away another lead to lose 2-1 to fellow strugglers Blackfield & Langley.

They were given a superb start at the weekend against Portsea Island rivals Baffins Milton Rovers, storming into a 2-0 lead inside the opening half hour.

Striker Josh Bailey, on his first start for the club following a recent switch from Moneyfields, grabbed both goals.

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But US let Baffins level with two goals either side of half-time. First, Jason Parish converted a penalty and then Dan Wood headed in at the back post from a corner three minutes into the second half.

US also handed a debut to another ex-Moneys player, midfielder Finn Bello, who came on as a second half sub.

‘I have always said I’ve never been looking up the table, I’ve always been looking over my shoulder,’ said Quirke.

‘I still believe in this group of players that we’re strong enough to compete and survive, and the players have to believe that as well.

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‘It was frustrating after being 2-0 up against a team of Baffins’ quality, but it showed we’ve got strength in depth and we’ve got quality.

‘I’m not panicking yet, though obviously I’m conscious of the teams around us.

‘We’ve got three games left and if we play at the levels I know we can, we should be fine. We’re still in control of our destiny.’

With rock bottom Alresford long since doomed, who will finish in the second relegation spot is anyone’s guess.

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Seven points separate 14th-placed Bournemouth Poppies and 19th placed Pagham with just a fortnight of the season remaining.

USP’s three remaining games are against mid-table sides - away to Fareham on Saturday, home to Hythe & Dibden on Thursday April 20 and at Laverstock & Ford two days later.

Pagham host Baffins on Tuesday in the first of their two games in hand on Quirke and co.

The Sussex club then welcome Portland two days later, with the Dorset club having to make a 206-mile round trip on a Thursday evening.

Two home wins in three days would dump USP into the drop zone for the first time this season, and with just over a week of the campaign to go.