BLUES: Clarke's brace helps Portland knock the leaders off the top

Dorset Echo: DOUBLE STRIKE: Lewis Clarke DOUBLE STRIKE: Lewis Clarke

MERLEY COBHAM SPORTS 1 PORTLAND UNITED 2

LEWIS Clarke’s double saw the Blues come from behind to claim the spoils in their top-of-the-table clash at Merley Park.

Second-placed Portland overcame the challengers of the Dorset Premier League leaders, but it is Hamworthy Recreation who take over at the summit after thrashing Poole Borough.

However, that doesn’t concern Blues’ boss Gary Bailey at this stage of the season, he was just delighted to see his men earn the victory he felt they deserved.

Portland went behind on the half hour mark against the run of play but Clarke’s solo effort brought them level and the same player benefitted from Ashley Smith’s determination to make it 2-1.

Merley did everything they could to snatch an equaliser in the second half but they found Portland keeper Ashley Weeks and his defence in no mood to surrender.

“It was always going to be a tight game so it’s very pleasing to come away with a win,” said Bailey. “And over the 90 minutes I thought we probably edged it and deserved the three points.

“We spurned a couple of chances to extend our lead in the second half and as the game went on they started throwing caution to the wind by putting more bodies forward.

“But we were magnificent in defence and when we came under pressure our lads put their bodies on the line.”

Looking back on the game, Bailey added: “Nobody was really dominant early on but they took the lead on 30 minutes from a free-kick we didn’t deal with.

“We were disappointed to go a goal down against the run of play but we enjoyed a really good spell before half-time.

“Lewis Clarke made it 1-1 with a good individual goal. He got the ball tight on the touchline, burst through a couple of tackles and scored from close range.

“Then Ashley Smith blocked a clearance from the Merley keeper and laid the ball into Lewis’ path to make it 2-1.

“We started the second half really well and Lewis, Adam Linaker and Ryan McKechnie all had decent opportunities in the first 20 minutes.

“That would have given us some breathing space and as the game wore on Merley committed more players forward. But we saw the game out with some great defending and Ashley Weeks made two great saves late on.

“We had three players out suspended so it showed that we’ve got good strength in depth with a couple of lads stepping up from the reserves.

“And Charlie Holland made his debut at left-back and gave a very good account of himself in his first game for the club.”

Portland’s fixture at home to Hamworthy Recreation on Saturday is almost certainly going to be postponed with both clubs having players in the Dorset Football League squad for their game the same day.

Blues: Weeks, Carter, Holland, Whyton, B Doidge, Smith (Newnham 50), Bastic (Bessant 75), R Doidge, McKechnie, Linaker (Hansford 70), Clarke

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