PORTLAND United have been crowned Dorset Premier League champions for the second year on the spin after skipper Lewis Whyton came off the bench to net the winner nine minutes from time against Mere Town.

It looked as though Gary Bailey’s troops were going to march their way to title glory after Ross Doidge’s first half-brace gave them a two-goal cushion, but nerves and tiredness started to creep in during a frantic second period.

The Blues’ boss told Echosport: “We all said in agreement at half time we couldn’t see ourselves letting a goal in but it had the feeling of a testimonial about it with a slow pace and I warned them about it.”

And Portland were made to pay 15 minutes into the second half when a Mere substitute jinked his way past three men and slotted home to make it 2-1.

Bailey’s men then responded again when Ashley Smith popped up for the visitors, after he latched on to some neat work between Ross Doidge and Alex Halloran, and finished well to reclaim the two-goal advan- tage.

But Mere failed to cave in and with two goals in five second-half minutes, the game was put back in the balance at 3-3.

Bailey added: “To be honest I could only see one team winn- ing it from there and it wasn’t us.”

But with what the manager admitted was tired legs and tired minds, he called on skipper Whyton, who was nursing an injury, to go on up front and deliver.

And nine minutes from time, Whyton produced the goal that sent Portland delirious as he linked up with Ryan McKechnie and smashed home the winner, which was what Bailey believed he deserved.

He added: “Lewis is my captain and he was disappointed not to be able to start, he has been ever present this year other than one or two games, he doesn’t want to miss anything.

“When I called him to come on I knew he wasn’t fit enough to play a full part, but he went out there and made the difference.”

Blues: Weeks, Camp, B Doidge, Carmichael, Gould (Linaker 80), Bessant, Halloran, McKechnie, Smith (Whyton 78), Carlile, R Doidge