BRAVE Portland United succumbed to a 1-0 win against league favourites AFC Stoneham despite two key injuries in their Velocity Wessex League Premier Division clash.

Portland were already without Kyle Critchell due to illness and his assistant Jamie Symes for personal reasons, leaving first-team coach Josh Hickman in charge.

AFC Stoneham came into the game in second, having conceded only eight goals in 16 matches, and will go top if they win two of their three games in hand on Shaftesbury.

Portland’s task became even tougher, then, when Edward Orvis broke the deadlock after nine minutes, capitalising on an incisive move in which Stoneham got in behind the Blues.

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Jack Delves then became the first of the Blues' casualties when he rolled his ankle, leading to a trip to hospital for the midfielder.

He was replaced by Ben Morris in the 13th minute, and the winger came close to levelling when he drove forward and fired over.

Stoneham could have extended their lead but for keeper Harrison Bruton, who denied Owen Fee’s shot from close range on the half hour.

Portland threatened again from wide areas when Joe Wickham’s ball was plucked from within reach of Ryan McKechnie by Purples’ keeper Callum Lee.

However, a golden chance fell to exactly the player Portland wanted in Greg Borthwick just before half-time, only for the Blues’ top scorer to fire over from around six yards out.

There was still time for Stoneham to hit the bar before half-time and the hosts came out with menace after the interval, Duarte Martins fizzing a deflected shot wide.

Portland’s assignment grew harder on 56 minutes, though.

The islanders miraculously survived a scramble in which Stoneham hit the woodwork for a second time, before rolling along the line with the Purples convinced the ball had crossed the whitewash.

In the aftermath, it became clear Bruton had sustained a nasty gash to his knee, for which he will later be taken to hospital and was anticipated to require stitches.

Bruton was subbed off for Crit Clarke, himself a doubt with illness coming into the game, while defender George Stuttle took the gloves.

And he was called into action in the 72nd minute to keep out yet another Stoneham chance as the Blues battled on.

In increasingly foggy conditions, Stuttle superbly punched a corner clear with five minutes to go, setting up a grandstand finish.

Portland could have nicked a point in stoppage time when Matt Harvey’s cross caused near consternation in the home box before the Purples smuggled the ball clear.

In the end, Portland were forced to settle for a narrow loss in trying circumstances.

Blues: Bruton (Clarke 60), Harvey, Stuttle, Williams, Bessant, Callow, Doyle, McKechnie, Borthwick, Delves (Morris 13), Wickham. Subs not used: Gadsby, Woolford Scott.