“PROUD” Portland United first-team coach Josh Hickman could not fault the Blues after their 1-0 defeat to AFC Stoneham.

Edward Orvis struck what proved to be the winner in the ninth minute but the Blues were severely hampered by injury and illness.

Manager Kyle Critchell has Covid, while assistant Jamie Symes was absent for personal reasons.

Subsequent injuries to midfielder and Jack Delves and particularly goalkeeper Harrison Bruton put a spanner in the Blues’ works with defender George Stuttle deputising in goal for the final 30 minutes.

READ MORE: AFC Stoneham 1-0 Portland United - report

Portland could not find an equaliser but the best chance they manufactured fell to top scorer Greg Borthwick, who lifted his finish over Purples’ keeper Callum Lee just before half-time.

Speaking after an eventual loss to the Velocity Wessex League Premier Division favourites, Hickman expressed his pride in the Blues’ battling performance.

He told Echosport: “We’re extremely proud. We’re excited, because it’s a great measure of where we’re at as a team.

“We’ve got young lads who want to push on and as a management, a club and players we want to push the club on. We’re doing well in that.

“We put them under pressure the last 10 minutes and we’ve stayed in the game for 110 minutes of play. They’ve done themselves proud.

“You’ve got to expect when you come to Stoneham it’s always going to be tricky. You’re going to concede chances and you’re going to have to ride your luck at times.

“We’ve done that at times but it’s fair to say in one or two spells in the game that they rode their luck.

“The ball’s fallen to Greg eight yards out and unfortunately he’s put it wide. On another day, who knows? It could be a different game.

“Over the course of the game I do think they deserved to win but flip that and forget the result, we can be massively proud of our performance.”

Portland United next host Hythe & Dibden on Saturday (3pm).