PORTLAND United slipped to only their second home league defeat of the season as promotion candidates AFC Portchester took a slender 1-0 win at the Camp & Satherley Stadium.

Kyle Critchell’s men conceded what proved to be the winner in the first half and, despite mounting a concerted period of pressure in the second half, could not equalise.

The result saw Portland slip out of the play-off positions, with Brockenhurst’s 1-1 draw against Andover New Street taking them into fifth spot.

Portland, who have made a habit of slow starts this season, were thankful for goalkeeper Harrison Bruton’s first-minute save to deny George Barker.

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Conor Bailey was next to be denied by Bruton, pushing over his stinging 25-yarder.

With both defences excelling, Portland were repelled when Josh Williams’ goalbound shot was blocked, before Portchester’s Barker had a goal ruled out for handball in the build-up on 26 minutes.

With most of the chances falling to Portchy, it came as no surprise when the visitors legitimately opened the scoring as Portland failed to deal with a long ball, allowing Archie Willcox to slam home from six yards.

Portland had appealed in vain for what they felt was an elbow in the neck of Jacob Coombs in the same move.

In the second half, Portland enjoyed the majority of play but found the Portchester defence almost immovable, systematically blocking any sniff of an opening the Blues had.

Aidan Shepherd and Joe Wickham were among two Portland players to have shots nullified, while George Stuttle was twice unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Bruton had to watch closely a swerving shot from Charlie Williamson as Portchester nearly extended their lead, although they eventually saw the game out to stay third in the table.

Speaking to Echosport, Critchell said: “I don’t think there was that much in the game. It was a very physical game.

“Portchester were incredibly direct and, in all honesty, I couldn’t be prouder of the effort my lads put in to the game. I felt like they deserved more.

“Both teams didn’t really create an awful lot. Portchester started the game better, as you’d expect.

“We were unfortunate to concede the goal. It was a foul. Their bench is agreeing with me.

“The referee disallowed a goal five minutes before that and maybe that impacted his decision.

“However, our reaction from that was fantastic. We stayed in the game, we had a lot of snapshots, blocked shots, crosses across their box.

“On the whole, with regards to the response and the way we stayed in the game, we did deserve a little bit more.”

Portland move on to a Dorset derby at Christchurch on Tuesday (7.45pm).

Blues: Bruton, Harvey (Morris 78), Stuttle, Williams, Callow, Gadsby, Bent (Wickham 14), Bessant, Shepherd, Doyle (McKechnie 60), Coombs (Delves 60). Sub not used: Clarke.

Attendance: 235.

Match sponsor: Jim Hinde.

Man of the match sponsors: The Syndicate.

Match ball sponsor: Tony Babb.

Programme sponsor: Clive Saunders.

Mascots: Harry & Charlie.