Halloran 12pen McKechnie 90+5


Horlock 34

RYAN McKechnie was the saviour of Portland United after an extraordinary finish at Grove Corner saw the islanders nick a 2-1 win against Bemerton Heath Harlequins in the dying seconds of the game.

It started well for the hosts as Alex Halloran netted a penalty early on but they were pegged back 10 minutes before the break from a Greg Horlock header.

With leaders Moneyfields winning against Newport IOW, the islanders had to score to keep their title hopes alive.

And, with just seconds remaining, McKechnie slotted home the winner to send Grove Corner into hysterics.

The result means Portland finish the campaign two points behind Moneys, but both teams will have to wait for an FA hearing on Wednesday to decide the destination of the title.

Moneyfields still face a possible points deduction for fielding a suspended player back in January. Should they be docked three points, Portland would claim the crown.

Manager Gary Bailey made just one change from the side that beat Team Solent 2-0 in the week.

Alex Godfrey dropped to the bench in place of Darren Watts.

The match intensity was always going to be fierce with so much on the line - a thunderous early tackle from Bemerton's Will Robinson set the tone for a feisty encounter.

Despite the quick start, the game was scrappy with neither side able to string more than a few passes together.

The first opening fell to the visitors, but Elliott Cross could only fire high and wide from the edge of the box.

Soon after, a golden chance fell to the islanders in the 12th minute. Going away from goal, Ed Bastick was stupidly felled by keeper Dan Kovacs and referee Tony Foster had no choice but to point to the spot.

Up stepped Halloran to send Kovacs the wrong way and settle the nerves around Grove Corner.

The opener lifted Portland's confidence. Watts tried his luck with a couple of efforts but they were kept at bay by the visitors as the hosts started to put the squeeze on.

The next clear cut effort came just after the half hour mark and it fell to Bemerton. After a cross from Jake Rawkins' cross fell to Jake Burgess but he hammered his close-range effort over the bar.

This set up a flurry of chances. Watts found his shot blocked before Sean Lillington made a save from Burgess after a mistake from full-back Ashley Smith.

Then, in the 35th minute, came the moment that silenced Grove Corner. An in-swinging set-piece found the head of towering defender Horlock and his precise effort found the net, leaving Lillington helpless.

With tensions high, the game had threatened to boil over throughout the first half and it did so just before the break as Scott Joyce and Ross Carmichael clashed on the halfway line.

After a couple of minutes of, in truth, petulant scuffling, the referee booked both Joyce and Carmichael. Soon after, Jamie Beasley and Connor Doe were also cautioned for a similar altercation.

The islanders started the second half the brighter. Watts tried his luck once again but, much like in the first half, couldn't trouble the keeper.

To add another goal threat, Bailey brought on Lewis Clarke for Bastick as the islanders opted for two up top.

Just after the hour mark, Clarke looked set to make the perfect impact but his header – from a pinpoint Beasley cross – was poorly timed and troubled no one.

The pressure on the islanders grew with 15 minutes to go as Moneyfields took the lead in their game meaning Portland had to score to make Wednesday's hearing mean anything at all.

But, as time slipped away from the hosts, they looked unable of getting through a stubborn Bemerton, who now had their backs to the wall.

In desperation, the Blues through captain, and defender, Lewis Whyton forward in hopes of finding a winner.

Chances, now, were at a premium and, as Clarke saw his shot saved by Kovacs, frustration from the home bench was seeping into the game.

News of a Moneyfields win was bleak for the hosts, but, in the 95th minute they came back from the brink as McKechnie bundled home a corner to send Grove Corner into raptures – almost like they had won the league. Almost.

The islanders will now wait on baited breath for the results of Wednesday's hearing, which will decide their fate. But, they have put themselves in arguably the best possible position.

Blues: Lillington, Smith (Bessant, 78), C Clarke, Carmichael, Whyton, Buckler, Bastick (L Clarke, 54), Halloran, McKechnie, Watts (Godfrey, 65), Beasley. Subs not used: Doidge, Mutch

Bemerton: Kovacs, Doe, Cole, Thompson, Horlock (Biles, 74), Robinson, Griffin, Burgess (Buck, 65), Joyce, Cross, Rawkins. Sub not used: Burden

Bookings: Blues – Carmichael, Beasley

Bemerton – Joyce, Doe

Attendance: 243