PORTLAND United were consigned to a 3-2 defeat at fellow play-off contenders Baffins Milton Rovers, despite leading 1-0 at half-time.

The Blues remain fifth in the Velocity Wessex League Premier Division but could now be overtaken by Sherborne, Laverstock, Cowes and Baffins should they win their games in hand.

Kyle Critchell’s men traded blows with Baffins in the early exchanges as Ryan McKechnie was repelled by Roux Hardcastle before Blues’ keeper Harrison Bruton stopped Seok-jae Lee’s curling effort.

Portland did enjoy the better of play in the first half and created two half chances from throw-ins, while Jacob Coombs was denied by Hardcastle after an excellent run from Joe Wickham.

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And the islanders duly took the lead when player-assistant Jamie Symes pounced on an error in the Baffins defence to beat Hardcastle and register his second goal of the season.

However, while Portland’s gameplan was clearly working, the Blues inexplicably strayed from it in the second half.

Tyrhys Lukonyomoi hit the post amid increasing Baffins pressure and the hosts were afforded an equaliser on 65 minutes when stand-in skipper Shaun Bessant was adjudged to have fouled Lee in a 50/50 challenge inside the box.

Lee then stepped up and sent Bruton the wrong way, guiding the spot-kick to the keeper’s right.

Poor Portland defending four minutes later then turned the game on its head as Ben Morris clattered an attempted clearance into a forest of bodies and the ball fell kindly for Lukonyomoi to volley home from close range.

Portland could only respond when Troy Walbridge was denied by Hardcastle one minute from time, before a killer third goal.

Bruton raced out of his goal and could only play the ball straight infield to Lee who lobbed a first-time volley into the net.

With Portland beaten, play continued into the 95th minute where Morris netted a consolation but Baffins held on to claim a deserved win that moved them within seven points of Portland, armed with four games in hand.

Critchell told Echosport: “It was a game of two halves, for sure. Once we got to grips with the game, we were brilliant.

“The gameplan worked excellently, we took the lead and had a couple of other chances to score. We got into half-time relatively comfortably.

“I said to them if we continue to do what we’re doing, we’ll win this game. We just didn’t do that.

“We came out and started going away from the gameplan and we were punished for that.”

Asked why the Blues erred from the plan, Critchell said: “I’m not really sure. That’s probably age and experience.

“You should really, when you’re on top, continue with what’s making you successful. We just didn’t do it.

“Baffins did what we weren’t able to, carried on and found success.”

Portland visit relegation-threatened US Portsmouth on Saturday (3pm).

Blues: Bruton, Bessant, Clarke (Holloway 85), Gadsby, Stuttle, Coombs, Wickham, Doyle (Harvey 80), Symes (Morris 62), Shepherd (Walbridge 73), McKechnie (Delves 80).

Attendance: 75.