A controversial and potentially match winning disallowed second goal, compounded by a last gasp penalty stroke equaliser, saw Fareham have a precious National League South Division victory over Oxford Hawks ripped from their grasp as the visitors escaped from Henry Cort with a 1-1 draw.
Heading into the last five minutes of a nerve jangling bottom-of-the-table affair, Fareham were hanging onto a single-goal lead from a clinically worked penalty corner by Fergus Jackson.
And when the talented teenager rifled a second set-piece goal past Hawks goalkeeper Chris Price, Fareham thought they had won.
But amid protests from the Fareham players, umpire Neil Smith disallowed the goal, believing Jackson’s shot had ‘skimmed’ the foot of team-mate Chris Davey before it flashed past the goalkeeper.
Soon after and with only 40 seconds left on the clock, Fareham defender James Meakin was penalised for pushing in the D and penalty stroke specialist Jack Biggs stepped up to steal Hawks’ last gasp equaliser.
Fareham head coach Ben Barnes confessed he “was speechless at the end of the game.
“The lads worked so hard and did enough to win the game but at 1-0 you are never safe.
“I did not see anything wrong with the disallowed goal, nor did Oxford’s coach.
“The umpire was certain it ‘skimmed’ the shin pad of the forward (Chris Davey) near the goalkeeper so that’s what he gave.
“The player is positive it did not touch him, video evidence from our camera (mounted on the clubhouse balcony immediately overlooking the Oxford goal) does not have ‘snicko’ and it looks like all it hits is the goalkeeper’s kicker and leg guards and then the net.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have VAR at this level so we have to carry on. 2-0 would have seen us safe and the penalty stroke was gut wrenching only two minutes later.”
Fareham were ahead courtesy of a short corner routine goal-scorer Fergus Jackson explained he had been involved with since he played in the Under-14s.
“It’s basically a one-two, with Will Penrose passing Rob Wilson’s injection for me to smash it into the net. I tried hard to get us to do that earlier in the season, but now the other lads know it works we’ll doubtless do it again,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s disallowed goal would have made it 2-0, but with Oxford equalising in what was effectively the final play, Fareham will spend the winter break anchored to the South Division basement with only one win and two draws from ten outings.
Barnes continued: “At some point we will see the positives of turning an 8-1 defeat at Oxford Hawks four weeks ago to being gutted we have drawn 1-1 to the same team, but very hard to take the manner in which it unfolded.
“We may have taken that result before the game but we could have had all three points and do feel it was cruelly ripped out of our hands
“I am sure it will give us fire to our ambition to continue to improve for the eight games after Christmas.
“We must not forget this is a young side and they have shown unbelievable resolve with all that has been thrown at them since September.
“I know they will keep improving and I am sure if we get ourselves in front again that we will want to see it over the line next time.
“I was incredibly proud of the performance against Oxford and if we keep playing like that we will get results.”
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