US Portsmouth unable to stop the Shaftesbury juggernaut in home Wessex League defeat

For the second time in a few weeks, US Portsmouth were unable to stop the Shaftesbury juggernaut.

By Simon Carter
Sunday, 20th March 2022, 3:02 pm
US Portsmouth defender Tom Jeffes in action during the home loss to Shaftesbury. Picture by Nathan Lipsham.
US Portsmouth defender Tom Jeffes in action during the home loss to Shaftesbury. Picture by Nathan Lipsham.

Following on from losing 5-1 in north Dorset in the Wessex League at the end of February, US crashed 4-0 at home at the weekend.

Second-placed Shaftesbury have now racked up 10 successive Wessex Premier Division wins in a row, scoring 37 goals in the process. In all, the Rockies have netted 112 league goals in 2021/22 - 10 more than next best Horndean - and they still have six games left.

US went close to breaking the deadlock when Simon Woods hit the post, but the visitors took control with two goals in three minutes from Greg Peel and Asa Phillips.

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Action from US Portsmouth's home Wessex League loss to high-flying Shaftesbury. Picture by Nathan Lipsham.

Peel struck again in the second half with Luke Burbidge - signed from step 3 side Poole Town earlier in the season - adding a late fourth.

‘Their front four are amongst the best in the league, they caused us problems all afternoon,’ said USP assistant manager Tom Jeffes.

‘We applied ourselves well, but we missed a little bit of a cutting edge. Against the top teams you’re not going to get too many chances, and we weren’t ruthless.’

Shaftesbury certainly are, as their ‘goals for’ column easily indicates. They have seven players into double figures for the season, headed by Phillips on 31. Ash Pope, second with 24, was a sub at USP - highlighting the strength of the Rockies’ squad. Tuesday’s game at leaders Hamworthy, pitting the league’s best defence against its most potent attack, should be some encounter.

Action from US Portsmouth's home Wessex League loss to high-flying Shaftesbury. Picture by Nathan Lipsham.

Burbidge, who has Southern League experience with Wimborne as well as Poole, has only started 14 games but scored 12 times.

In contrast, US fielded teenagers Pip Wilcox and Josh Stream in defence. ‘We’re a young side and we lack a bit of experience. Apart from Woodsy and myself, everyone else is 25 or under,’ explained Jeffes.

‘Shaftesbury are an experienced side - Burbidge is a class above. If they’d signed some of their players a bit earlier in the season, they’d be neck and neck with Hamworthy.’

With six games remaining, USP are currently 16th in the 21-team table. Realistically, the highest they can finish is 13th, the spot currently held by Fareham - five points above them.

‘We don’t want to let the season peter out,’ declared Jeffes. ‘We are delighted with how the season has gone. A lot of people wrote us off before the season had started - and continued to do so - but we’ve never been dragged into a relegation battle.

‘We want to accumulate as many points as possible and finish as high up as we can.’