Three goals in as many stunning first half minutes pointed Fareham towards a 5-2 win at Cheltenham – a critical result in their bid to secure their jealously protected National League status.
The win lifted Fareham (10) three points clear of the bottom side Bristol University and to within touching distance of Isca (11) and Chichester (12), the pair immediately above them in the Western Conference table.
There are now three games left, with both Fareham and Isca to play Bristol University in a dramatic finale.
Elated Fareham coach Ben Barnes said: “This performance has been coming for a number of weeks as we have been playing well but not quite able to turn it into a win.
“This result is a relief and a great boast to the squad’s confidence as we head into three absolutely crucial games.”
Fareham enjoyed a slice of luck from a blocked Cheltenham penalty corner before Rob Wilson sparked the decisive three-goal frenzy.
Alex Boxall doubled Fareham’s lead after teenager George Davey controlled an aerial pass and crossed for his captain to send a deflection past the Cheltenham ‘keeper.
With their Gloucestershire hosts all at sea, Jamie Rawlings converted a drag flick to give the visitors a 3-0 with only 13 minutes on the clock.
Soon after, elder brother Danny wasted a couple of good chances to seal the win and when Matt Cort clawed one back Cheltenham sniffed a potential comeback.
But four minutes before the interval Danny Rawlins made amends by making it 4-1.
“I was pleased for Danny, who hasn’t had much luck lately, but that fourth goal was perfectly timed,” Barnes said.
Fareham continued to control proceedings and stretched their lead from a Chris Davey short corner.
Cheltenham scored a consolation second through Craig Graham late on, but it came too little too late to affect the outcome.
Now all eyes will be focussed on the visit of stuttering Old Georgians to Henry Cort on Sunday (1.30), the Surrey side having thrashed Fareham 6-1 on the opening day of the season.
Chichester host Cheltenham, while Isca face Exeter University in a West Country derby.
Havant’s bid to regain lost National League status is gaining momentum, with their 5-0 win at Guildford coinciding with South Premier leaders Bromley & Beckenham losing 3-1 at lowly Banbury.
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