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FOOTBALL: Portland dig in to claim precious point
PORTLAND United showed their fighting qualities to earn a deserved point in the face of testing conditions at Grove Corner..
A mistake by Blues’ keeper Ashley Weeks allowed Tom Willis to give the visitors the lead on the hour, but the hosts battled back and Ross Doidge scrambled an equaliser 10 minutes later.
Gary Bailey’s side may even have won the game in the seven minutes of injury time had it not been for a great reaction save by Andy Knights from Portland substitute Adam Linaker.
The Dorset Premier League match took a battering by strong winds from start to finish, with gusts making proceedings almost farcical at times.
Knights seemed to suffer the most out of the two keepers, so much so that one of his goal kicks in the first half was blown back towards him and out for a corner.
But playing with the wind was about as difficult as it was playing with it, as it was almost impossible to judge a long pass intended for a team-mate.
That said, the home side could well have gone into half-time a couple of goals to the good.
And it was Doidge who seemed to be at the heart of most things for the Blues with his set-pieces really testing Knights and his defence.
The Hamworthy stopper produced a flying save to turn away the midfielder’s stinging free-kick early on, and then right-back Tom Carter just missed an in-swinging dead-ball at the far post.
At the other end, Weeks had to be on his toes to claw away Luke Stone’s header before Portland’s Lewis Clarke saw a headed effort go just wide of a post.
Six minutes from the break another Doidge corner found Lewis Whyton but the defender couldn’t control his header from close range.
Doidge headed over from point blank range himself, less than a minute into the second period, and 15 minutes later the hosts were made to pay for their misses when Willis struck.
A dangerous free-kick from Kane Andrews took a nasty bounce just in front of Weeks, he failed to gather and centre-half Willis slotted home.
But it didn’t take long for Portland to level. Carl Mutch found Charlie Holland on the left, he got to the by-line and pulled the ball back for Doidge to rifle in after Knights had missed it.
Linaker had replaced Mutch with 15 minutes left and he had two great chances to win it for the Blues.
Found by Ryan McKechnie, he blasted over from 15 yards and, deep into time added on, his goal-bound effort was tipped over by Knights.
“I was pleased with the way the lads showed grit and determination after going a goal down,” said Blues’ boss Bailey.
“I thought we were edging it before we went 1-0 behind. We were creating the better chances, even against the wind.
“But I can’t fault their attitude, desire and character to get back into it.”
He added: “I’m a bit disa-ppointed because of the chances we created in the first half and if we’d come in at half-time 2-0 up, I feel we may have gone on to win the game.
“But having to defend the whole second half like that and coming back from a goal down, I’m delighted.
“I think a point was a fair result. Both teams had to play the conditions and it was tough out there.”
Portland are now up to second place in the table, two points behind new leaders Weymouth Reserves but with three games in hand.
Blues: Weeks, Carter, Holland, B Doidge, Whyton, Mutch (Linaker 75), Smith, R Doidge, Clarke, McKechnie, Bastic (Carlile 64). Sub not used: Newnham Match ball sponsor: Derek Cribb
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