Servio Senior Cup Report: AFC Portchester 3-1 Saints

2023-24/U21s/Live Matchday Images/20240326 AFC Portchester vs Southampton/A25I1583_lq8zav

Southampton’s youngsters exited the Servio Men’s Senior Cup in the semi-finals after suffering defeat against AFC Portchester.

After a slow start to the game, Saints broke down their hosts as Josh Pitts opened the scoring.

AFC Portchester began the second half fired up and levelled the game through a Harrison Brook penalty.

A brace from substitute Kane O’Keefe settled the tie for Portchester, who secured their progression to the final.

Saints fielded a majority Under-18s side, but a younger squad than the previous round as just Pitts, Tommy Dobson-Ventura, and Thierry Rohart-Brown kept their place from the quarter-finals.

Alejandro Gomes Rodriguez in action from the start. (Photos: Isabelle Field)

With a place in the final on the cards AFC Portchester set themselves up defensively from the outset, giving Saints’ youngsters the task of breaking them down.

Saints dominated possession but created few chances, with Pitts proving to be an outlet when found in space; the forward composed himself after charging down the right wing to lay off Gomes Rodriguez who had a shot saved on the line.

Portchester’s first opening came in the 25th minute when a recycled free-kick wasn’t cleared by the Saints defence but Ryan Wilkins scuffed his effort from the edge of the box.

The young Saints side were slowly wearing their opponents down and, on the half hour mark, Rohart-Brown controlled a long ball superbly before laying off Princewill Ehibhatiomhan who blazed over the crossbar.

Just moments later though, the opening goal arrived as Pitts was alert in the area to turn home a low cross with a well-taken finish, opening his body to side-foot a shot into the bottom corner.

Josh Pitts opened the scoring.

The lead could have been extended before the break as neat build up play between Gomes Rodriguez and Aston Daley led to another opening for Pitts, who shot over from an angle.

Pitts almost turned provider after racing clear and rounding the goalkeeper, but the slick surface took him too far and his cross was hacked clear.

Rohart-Brown had the final chance of the first half with a clever spin and shot that was saved, as Saints entered the break with a slender lead.

They were made to pay for not capitalising on their first half dominance, as AFC Portchester came straight out of the blocks in the second half.

The hosts thought they’d equalised within minutes as the ball was turned in after a penalty area scramble, only for the linesman to overrule the referee’s initial decision of a goal.

An equaliser wasn’t too far away though as, after Josh Lett was denied at the other end, a penalty was awarded for Portchester which Harrison Brook duly tucked away.

From then on, the game had turned with the ninth-tier side managing the conditions better and producing half chances more regularly.

Substitute O’Keefe ultimately turned the tie on its head just five minutes after coming on as he headed home a cross from Charlie Williamson that was flicked on into a dangerous area.

Then, in the final ten minutes, O’Keefe rose to the occasion again with another header from a deep free-kick to settle the tie and put an end to Saints’ youngsters’ cup run.

AFC Portchester: Searle, Williamson, Hughes, Wilkins, Kaba, Woodford (captain), Cowan, H. Brook, Benfield (O’Keefe 68), Barker, Robinson.

Subs not used: Searle, Whitaker, C. Brook, Smith.

Goals: H. Brook 54, O’Keefe 73, 81.

Yellow Cards: Barker 64, Kaba 72

Saints: Mohamed, Okonola-Matthews (Oyekunle 61), Moore, Dobson-Ventura (captain), Fry, Daley, Gomes Rodriguez (Sillah Dibaga 80) Rohart-Brown, Pitts, Lett, Ehibhatiomhan.

Subs not used: Upstell, Sheaf, Martin.

Goals: Pitts 34.

Yellow Cards: Dobson-Ventura 81.

Attendance: 320