TEN-MAN Portland United once more pushed AFC Portchester all the way before succumbing to the promotion-chasing Tangerines.

The Blues were not helped by an early Josh Benfield goal but were firmly in the contest, staying 1-0 down for 76 minutes despite a red card for Greg Borthwick.

Ryan Wilkins then settled the destiny of the three points to maintain the hosts’ position of fourth, while Portland stay ninth.

While this was another battling display against a play-off side, Portland’s record against clubs in the top five is poor.

READ MORE: No more signings for Portland United this season, boss Kyle Critchell says

Their 0-0 draw with Shaftesbury in August is the sole point taken in eight matches against the current top five this season, with only two goals scored.

Portland struggled with Portchester’s 4-2-4 setup early on and were reprieved in the sixth minute when ex-Weymouth striker Brett Williams headed home, only for the offside flag to go up.

But there was no let-off two minutes later as Benfield breached keeper Harrison Bruton’s defences for 1-0.

Portland’s response was spirited, Ben Morris cutting in and firing at keeper Steven Mowthorpe, while Borthwick was denied by a superb recovery tackle to prevent a one-on-one.

Bruton was kept busy at the other end, too, Wilkins testing his reflexes with a sharp low 18-yard shot before Conor Bailey blasted over the bar in the 34th minute.

And Portland were indebted to Bruton for a massive double save on 42 minutes when he parried Benfield’s shot to Charlie Williamson and made a second block on the line.

Portland lived dangerously in the second half as Williams chipped Bruton, only to see the ball spin wide, and Archie Willcox smashed a header against the post.

Aside from that, Portland were causing problems of their own as Connor Bent nodded at Mowthorpe from Jacob Coombs’ cross.

Borthwick and Jack Delves were also denied by blocks in the box but the former’s two-footed tackle resulted in a red card on the hour mark.

Portchester also had a player sin-binned in the aftermath, leaving both sides down to 10 men, but once Portchy’s full complement was restored the hosts dominated.

Harrison Brook flashed a shot wide but the killer second came six minutes from time, Wilkins powering a header past Bruton.

Speaking to Echosport, Blues’ boss Kyle Critchell felt Borthwick’s red card changed the course of the match.

He said: “He’s given the referee a chance to make that decision. I’ve seen them given, I’ve seen them not.

“Ultimately, it has impacted the result. After half-time when we regrouped and stayed in the game, we came out and were on the front foot.

“We started to create a few opportunities and it’s a sad situation with regards to our record with red cards of late.”

Portland move on to a home clash with fellow play-off hopefuls Laverstock & Ford on Tuesday (7.45pm).

Blues: Bruton, Wickham, Clarke (Harvey 75), Cleaver, Gadsby, Callow, Bent (Shepherd 75), J Williams, Borthwick, Coombs (Doyle 65), Morris (Delves 65). Sub not used: Symes.

Attendance: 240.