PORTLAND United rued the fine margins as Velocity Wessex League Premier Division leaders AFC Stoneham claimed a 2-0 victory at the Camp & Satherley Stadium.

Kyle Critchell’s men are now winless in five league games, equalling their longest barren run of the season, and have dropped to ninth in the table.

On a tricky day weather-wise, with the strong Portland wind in full cry, Stoneham handled the conditions well and were always on the front foot.

Stoneham created a chance inside the first minute as Harrison Bruton was called upon to save Josh Batt’s header.

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But the Purples broke the deadlock in the 18th minute when Bruton’s reflex save from Ed Orvis at point-blank range fell kindly for Tyrell Sampson to bury the rebound.

Portland responded when Ben Morris cut inside from the right and tested Callum Lee with a shot from distance, before Mathew Bainbridge headed over at the other end.

Morris again went luckless with a long-range effort before the break, as Stoneham always carried more menace in their attacks.

Portland escaped in the second half when Stoneham went away empty-handed from a succession of corners and a clever free-kick routine.

However, there was no dodging the Purples’ second goal in the 61st minute.

Duarte Martins scampered down the left wing and picked out substitute Owen Fee, seconds after replacing ex-Dorchester striker Ash Pope, to poke past Bruton.

Portland’s task to restore parity was made doubly difficult in the 65th minute when Shaun Bessant, captain on the day, flew into a dangerous tackle on Sampson and received a straight red card.

The challenge injured Sampson, replaced by Liam Callaghan, before Fee warmed Bruton’s palms with a well-hit strike from 25 yards.

Portland’s best moment of the second half up to then fell to Brin Doyle, who got in on the right channel only to blast straight at Lee.

And the returning Greg Borthwick fluffed a golden chance for 2-1, missing a one-on-one with Lee five minutes from time to compound a gloomy day for the Blues.

Speaking to Echosport, Critchell said: “They were a class above, however, they knew they were in a game.

“It’s the fine margins that are the difference between us and the teams higher up in the league.

“Like I said after the game to the players, they have to use these moments to help guide them when they’re in those experience next time, to help them improve as players.

“We didn’t disgrace ourselves by any means. Actually, on the balance of play in terms of chances, there weren’t that many for both sides.

“I think 2-0 might’ve flattered them a little bit, but that’s why they’re top of the league. They know how to win those games.”

Portland next travel to Fareham on Saturday (3pm).

Blues: Bruton, Wickham, Clarke, Cleaver, Bessant, Callow, Doyle (McKechnie 75), Coombs, Shepherd (Harvey 60), Bent (Borthwick 65), Morris (Camp 75). Sub not used: Gadsby.