Jamie Rawlings roofed a penalty corner six minutes from time to earn Fareham a crucial 3-2 win over Clifton Robinson, the Western Conference bottom side, at Bristol University’s Coombe Dingle complex.
It was a key win for Fareham, who could have been sucked into the danger zone if Clifton had repeated their 2-1 victory at Henry Cort in November.
With Cheltenham and Isca, the teams below them in the log, both losing Fareham now have a handy cushion at the bottom.
“It was a crucial win in the big scheme of things,” said Fareham head coach Ben Barnes.
“With the other bottom teams losing hard games we knew that a win (in Bristol) would give us some distance in the table as well as a potential springboard for the second half of the season.
“Two more wins will make us safe, particularly if we beat Isca and Cheltenham.”
Fareham had to battle for their victory, Clifton wiping out George Davey’s tenth minute goal and taking a 2-1 lead into first half stoppage time when Kieran Page restored parity.
“I was very pleased with how we kept playing and second half I felt we did enough to win the game by a couple more goals,” Barnes added.
“Clifton worked their socks off so keep things tight and are always dangerous on the break with long overhead passes and fast forwards which overall we dealt with well.”
Fareham enjoyed their best spell of the match after Davey had given them the lead, but some fine goalkeeping kept Clifton in the game as the visitors were unable to convert a series of short corners.
Rawlins, later to be Fareham’s match winner, was particularly unlucky as were Aussie Dave Andersson and James Seager, who saw a shot beaten off the line.
Almost predictably, Fareham lost their lead. Eight minutes after Davey’s strike, Tom Wheeler levelled and with half-time approaching Jamie Mortimore made it 2-1.
“Our equaliser right on half-time was very important,” Barnes admitted.
Kieran Page deflected in a cross after some good work by Jon Price in first half added time.
“Going in level allowed us to regroup and our positive mindset in the second half should have been rewarded with two more goals,” the coach added.
Page went close and Luke Cornish hit the side netting as Fareham created virtually the only chances of a calm second half.
Fareham’s winner, six minutes from the end, came after an Alex Boxall shot found a Clifton foot – Rawlins doing what he does best by drilling a drag flick into the top corner.
* Fareham seconds went down 4-2 at Hampshire/Surrey Regional Division 1 rivals Reigate Priory, where Oli Bradbury and Luke Gould scored.
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