PORTLAND United have play-off destiny in their own hands after a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Fareham Town.

Kyle Critchell’s Blues jumped above Brockenhurst into the all-important fifth spot, leading the Badgers by a point with both teams having played 36 matches.

The two meet on the final day of the Wessex League season, meaning Portland can afford to lose to third-placed Shaftesbury on Thursday provided they beat Brockenhurst on Saturday.

However, a shock victory against Shaftesbury would also seal the deal for the Blues, who could face a play-off at second-placed AFC Stoneham should they bag a top-five spot.

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At Fareham, who face a hugely-congested finish to the season after waterlogging at their home ground this winter, the Blues nearly scored in the first minute.

Brin Doyle perhaps should have scored from inside the box but keeper George Bonney made the save and set up a counter, leading to a stunning stop from his opposite number Harrison Bruton after pinball in the area.

After a breathless start, Portland earned a penalty in the 14th minute that would eventually prove the winner as Greg Borthwick went down in the box.

Fareham protested at what they perceived to be a soft call but Portland’s top-scorer dusted himself off to find the left-hand corner for 1-0.

Looking for a second goal to firmly put them in control, Portland had three efforts cleared off the line as Josh Camp was twice denied and Borthwick saw an effort repelled.

Fareham responded when ex-Dorchester Town star Jamie Hoskins curled a free-kick against the post and Connor Underhill forced Bruton into his second stupendous stop from the rebound.

In the second half, Portland showed their defensive rigidity again as Fareham were restricted to frustrated shots from distance.

The Blues did sink ever deeper into their half but Fareham could not find a way through.

Critchell told Echosport: “Fareham’s a really tricky place to go. They started their strongest XI and in the first 45 minutes we blew them away.

“We didn’t capitalise and take a bigger lead into half-time. Going into the second half, we were resilient and the players backed one another. We defended for our lives.”

After their seventh straight away game, Portland next host Shaftesbury on Thursday (7.45pm).

Critchell added: “While we appreciate we’re in a very good position, the next two games couldn’t be any more difficult.

“You don’t need any more motivation than the position we’ve put ourselves into. We’re riding the crest of a wave at the moment.

“We’re playing some lovely football but showing a steely side that can keep clean sheets, which is really important.

“Shaftesbury have got a striker in Brett Pitman who’s scored 50 goals this season, almost the total of our side (64), so we’re going to have to defend extremely well.

“Shaftesbury don’t always like travelling to Portland. Since I’ve been here we’ve been very good against them. We’ll have to come up with a gameplan and be quite clever.

“Ultimately, Saturday (against Brockenhurst) is the most important game.”

Critchell admitted he has discussed pooling all his resources for the Brockenhurst game, but reiterated the strength across his squad.

“That has been said with regards to what line-up we put out,” he added.

“Regardless of what 11 starts, it will be an 11 that I trust to go and win.”

Greg Borthwick, Jack Delves, George Stuttle and Jamie Symes are all carrying minor knocks and will be assessed.

Blues: Bruton, Bessant, Clarke, Williams, Gadsby, Callow, Morris, Doyle (Coombs 90+2), Borthwick (Bent 65), Camp, Delves (Buckler 65). Subs not used: Stuttle, Harvey.

Attendance: 110.