THE destiny of the Dorset Premier League title remains in the hands of Portland United despite Saturday’s defeat by Wareham Rangers.

It was a hugely frustrating afternoon for the Blues, who had Jamie Beasley sent off in the second half, as they created numerous chances but couldn’t find the back of the net.

Their opponents took the lead with their first effort on target in the 43rd minute, Paul Harding guiding the ball into an unguarded goal after Portland keeper Ashley Weeks had failed to deal with a high cross.

Try as they might, the Blues were unable to find an equaliser and, with Weymouth Reserves winning, they had to relinquish top spot in the table to the Terras – Portland could reclaim it tomorrow when they go to Tintinhull (3pm).

“It wasn’t a disastrous performance,” said Blues’ boss Gary Bailey. “I thought we played some good football.

“But our final ball wasn’t quite there and we didn’t take our chances, and we were always open to the sucker-punch.

“You can’t give cheap goals away like we did because then you have a mountain to climb.

“We probably dominated possession in the second half but after the sending off we had to start gambling, which is when you are susceptible.

“I can’t question the commitment of my lads but when you’re involved in a title run-in there is no room for off days.

“It’s still in our hands. It puts pressure on the last five games but we know exactly what we’ve got to do and if we win all five we’ll win the league.

On Beasley’s red card, he added: “I can’t defend that. When you’re chasing a game you need all your players on the pitch.”

Portland’s best chance of the first half, and arguably of the whole game, fell to Antony Carlile just four minutes in.

But after he blasted over when one-on-one with the Wareham keeper, it was a catalogue of close calls for the home side.

Ross Doidge, Alex Halloran and Beasley all tried their luck, while Rangers’ defender Oakley Hanger nearly sliced a cross into his own net.

Starting the second period 1-0 down following Harding’s opener, Portland’s task was made even more difficult when Beasley was dismissed for lashing out – Wareham also had their manager sent from the dug out later in the game for dissent.

Both teams had penalty appeals turned down and, as the Blues pushed forward desperately seeking a point, only great covering by Ross Carmichael prevented Wareham from doubling their lead.

Blues: Weeks, Smith, B Doidge, Carmichael, Whyton, Mutch (Linaker 57), McKechnie, Halloran, Carlile (Bastic 71), R Doidge, Beasley. Sub not used: Newnham