‘Gut-wrenching’ late controversy as Fareham have crucial victory agonisingly ripped from their grasp
There was late controversy at Henry Cort as Fareham had a precious National League South Division victory over fellow strugglers Oxford Hawks ripped from their grasp.
Heading into the last five minutes of a nerve jangling bottom-of-the-table affair, Fareham were hanging onto a single-goal lead from a clinically-worked penalty corner by Fergus Jackson.
And when the teenager rifled a second set-piece goal past goalkeeper Chris Price, Fareham thought they had won.
But amid protests from the home players, umpire Neil Smith disallowed the goal - believing Jackson’s shot had ‘skimmed’ the foot of team-mate Chris Davey before it flashed past the goalkeeper.
Soon after, and with only 40 seconds left on the clock, Fareham defender James Meakin was penalised for pushing in the D and penalty stroke specialist Jack Biggs stepped up to fire home a last-gasp equaliser.
Fareham head coach Ben Barnes said: ‘The lads worked so hard and did enough to win, but at 1-0 you are never safe.
“I did not see anything wrong with the disallowed goal, nor did Oxford’s coach.
“The umpire was certain it ‘skimmed’ the shin pad of the forward near the goalkeeper so that’s what he gave.
‘The player is positive it did not touch him, video evidence from our camera (mounted on the clubhouse balcony immediately overlooking the Oxford goal) does not have ‘snicko’ and it looks like all it hits is the goalkeeper’s kicker and leg guards and then the net.
‘Unfortunately, we don’t have VAR at this level so we have to carry on. 2-0 would have seen us safe and the penalty stroke was gut-wrenching only two minutes later.”
Fareham were ahead courtesy of a short corner routine goal-scorer Jackson explained he had been involved with since he played in the Under-14s.
“It’s basically a one-two, with Will Penrose passing Rob Wilson’s injection for me to smash it into the net. I tried hard to get us to do that earlier in the season, but now the other lads know it works we’ll doubtless do it again,” Jackson said.
Fareham will spend the winter break anchored to the South Division basement with only one win and two draws from ten outings.
Barnes continued: ‘At some point we will see the positives of turning an 8-1 defeat at Oxford Hawks four weeks ago to being gutted we have drawn 1-1 to the same team, but very hard to take the manner in which it unfolded.
‘We may have taken that result before the game but we could have had all three points and do feel it was cruelly ripped out of our hands
‘I am sure it will give us fire to our ambition to continue to improve for the eight games after Christmas.
‘We must not forget this is a young side and they have shown unbelievable resolve with all that has been thrown at them since September.
‘I know they will keep improving and I am sure if we get ourselves in front again that we will want to see it over the line next time.
‘I was incredibly proud of the performance against Oxford and if we keep playing like that we will get results.’
At the other end of the table, Havant are third after a 5-0 win at Canterbury - all the goals coming from open play.
Manuel Silvetti opened the scoring with the first of his two goals on seven minutes, before Atiq Arshad doubled the lead two minutes after the start of the second quarter.
Michael Deller-Merricks added a third, Silvetti scored his second in the 43rd minute and Miguel Rodrigues completed the nap hand with three minutes left on the clock.