Zak Willett continues stunning start to life in the Wessex Premier Division as Horndean claim derby victory at US Portsmouth
Zak Willett continued his stunning start to life in the Wessex League Premier Division tonight.
Plucked from two divisions lower Paulsgrove in the summer, the pacy striker has taken step 5 football by storm.
He took his seasonal tally to 14 with a first half double as Horndean moved up to third in the table with a 3-1 PO postcode derby victory at US Portsmouth.
Only Silvano Obeng (20) and Kieran Roberts (15) - two players with Southern League experience - have scored more league and cup goals in 2021/22 among Wessex League players than Willett.
US went into the game on the back of three Wessex derby losses to Baffins (0-3), Fareham (1-6) and Moneyfields (1-4). That was an exceptionally tough run of fixtures and it didn’t get an easier when Horndean racked up for their first league visit to the Victory Stadium since 2010/11.
Back then, goals from Torr Spicer and Nathan Paxton gave Dave Carter’s Deans a 2-0 victory en route to promotion to the Wessex top flight.
Thanks to Willett, that was the half-time score here.
His first goal arrived in the 25th minute, forcing the ball home from close range after debutant Dylan Kramer - the fifth keeper USP have used this season - could only parry a low shot from Connor Duffin.
Kramer was out quickly to narrow the angle and save from Duffin 60 seconds later.
The second goal arrived two minutes before the interval. Racing onto a long ball from Ash Howes in the right side channel, a lovely first touch took him clear of Owen Scammell with Willett racing into the 18-yard box before poking a shot past the onrushing Kramer and into the bottom corner. It was a great goal from a player oozing confidence.
Most of the first half action was condensed into the USP half, and both Willett (offside) and Alfie Lis (foul) saw ‘goals’ ruled out.
The only time the hosts threatened was in a five-minute spell before Willett’s opener when Cameron Scott saved from both John Cass and Brodie Spencer.
It was a similar story after the restart.
Lis set up Ben Anderson for a close range angled effort which should have been on target but was instead wide.
Duffin then managed to find a way through around four challenges, even though he was struggling to stay on his feet throughout, eventually getting in a shot which Kramer deflected for a corner. From that, Lis blazed over from close range.
Against the run of play, US got themselves back in the game on 64 minutes when Obi Saidy came up for a free-kick and thumped in a fine header. It was only the fifth goal Deans had conceded in nine league games.
US boss Tom Grice used that as the moment to make a double substitution, bringing on top scorer Joe Johnson and Callum Jones. But the hosts’ main attacking weapon in the final 20 minutes came from Saidy’s huge throw-ins which the visitors defended well.
At the other end, Horndean sealed a win that they had always looked like collecting from the very early stages of the contest on 73 minutes.
Kramer couldn’t hold a 25-yarder from Lis and, after Willett had nipped in to take the ball past the keeper, Duffin couldn’t really miss from six yards out.
It was the former USP striker’s eighth goal of the season and he again showed glimpses of why Grice rates him as one of the best players in the Wessex League.
Horndean now prepare for another PO derby this weekend - a mouthwatering trip to Baffins Milton Rovers. If the Deans can make it five league wins in a row, ending Baffins’ unbeaten record, they will jump into second place.
USP have the chance to end their run of four straight league losses at rock bottom Hythe & Dibden.
USP: Kramer, Cass, Scammell, Jeffes, Saidy, Smart, Paige (Johnson, 65), Spencer, Osbourne (Quirke, 53), Ndlovu (Jones, 65).
Horndean: Scott, Taw, Miller (Field, 73), Hookey, Martin, Dempsey, Anderson, Howes, Duffin, Lis (Kimber, 83), Willett.