Alex Boxall scored twice as Fareham’s beat Bristol University 2-1 to boost their prospects of steering clear of an unwanted National League relegation play-off scrap.
The result spells relegation for the Bristol students, but leaves Fareham (14 points) above Isca on goal difference, and one clear of Chichester.
But Fareham will probably still need a positive outcome from their final Western Conference match at Birmingham University on Sunday to avoid finishing in the second from bottom play-off spot.
While Fareham play in the Midlands, relegated Bristol host Isca and Chichester entertain fourth-placed Old Georgians.
Fareham were being held 1-1 deep into the second half by Bristol, who with three minutes left on the clock made a remarkable and costly late tactical change.
Needing to win at all costs, the University threw caution to the wind and swapped their goalkeeper for a kicking back – only to concede Fareham’s winner (which ultimately sent them down) 30 seconds later.
Bristol lost possession to Sash Thomas in Fareham’s half.
With virtually all the Bristol players marooned upfield, the Australian picked out Boxall with a high aerial pass and the Fareham skipper did the rest.
It was nerve jangling stuff – as it always seems to be when Fareham play !
“All credit to the Bristol in taking off their keeper in an attempt to win the game as it very nearly worked for them,” reflected Fareham coach Ben Barnes.
“They piled on the pressure with the extra man, but it also gave us the incentive to stretch them and score the winning goal – a fantastic moment for us.
“It was such an important performance and result for Fareham and this group of players.”
With so much riding on the outcome, the Henry Cort crowd experienced a nervy watch – Fareham changing round without reward having seen four short corners stopped on the Bristol line.
“Jamie Rawlings was particularly unlucky. On another day, we could have been three or four up at half-time,” Barnes added.
Bristol continued to keep a clean sheet until seven minutes into the second half when Rawlings exploded a shot that Swedish international Henry Eriksson somehow deflected over the bar for a long corner, from which Boxall reverse sticked Fareham in front.
But Fareham were unable to hold on to their lead as midway through the period Tom Wilson beat George Harris with a deflected shot to make it 1-1.
With Bournemouth teenager Tim Nurse scoring twice to help Isca beat Birmingham University 4-1 and Hedge End based Martin Gough getting both goals in Chichester’s 2-2 draw with depleted Cardiff, Fareham were back in second from bottom place.
But that late twist in the tail saw Boxall grab the winner two minutes from time – a goal which could prove so important to Fareham short-term future.
* Havant are on the threshold of regaining their Western Conference spot after a 6-4 win at London Edwardians which puts them one point clear of Bromley & Beckenham at the top of South Premier 1.
Australian drag flick specialist Adam Seccull, previously with East Grinstead, scored four times.
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