Midweek football: Cup wins for Brockenhurst and Ringwood Town while Christchurch march to safety
THE latest round of midweek fixtures was a positive one for the six local sides in action, with four victories, one draw and one defeat.
Brockenhurst and Ringwood Town picked cup victories, while in league action Christchurch and New Milton grabbed three points, while Hythe & Dibden drew.
The only losers on the night were Fawley, who suffered a two-goal defeat to local rivals New Milton.
With the two sides neck-and-neck in the league, Brockenhurst knew they were in for a tough match against AFC Stoneham in their Russell Cotes Cup quarter-final, and so it proved, with the Badgers battling back to win 2-1.
The hosts got off to a blistering start when Mathew Bainbridge cut in from the left and struck a rocket into the top corner for 1-0.
With 29 minutes played, Mitch Speechley-Price restored parity with a penalty struck low and hard, evading the outstretched glove of the diving Tom Parker-Trott.
The Badgers thought they had found the winner when Kieran O'Donnell clattered the underside of the bar, with many believing the rebound had come down behind the line. However, when the winning goal eventually came with 18 minutes left, it arrived courtesy of Brock U18 player Ben Dukes.
With their 3-0 Southampton Senior Cup first-round victory, Ringwood Town avoided a potential banana skin, overcoming lowly Tendown Athletic from the 13th tier of the football pyramid.
After a tense first half which saw Tendown defending resolutely, the match exploded into life in the second period with the goals coming from Charlie Hitchings, captain Ben Harris and Josh Taylor.
The victory sets up a mouthwatering New Forest derby in the second round against Brockenhurst at the Meadens Skoda Arena.
Christchurch laid down an important marker in their quest for league safety, beating fellow relegation contenders Bournemouth Poppies 1-0 to move six points clear.
With their opposition team directly below them in the table, victory was essential, and Callum Brooks' men won the six-pointer thanks to a wonder-strike from player-of-the-match Luke Ansell.
With 20 minutes played, Christchurch shifted the ball around the edge of the area before Ansell collected it with his back to goal. He spun and unleashed a sensational strike into the top corner from more than 20 yards.
The rest of the match was a scrappy affair, with both sides desperate to win. However, Church held on for all three points, much to the delight of most of the 251 in attendance.
Hythe & Dibden continued their recent improved form with a 1-1 draw with Shaftesbury to move a step closer to league safety.
After a shocking run of 21 games without a win, Hythe have taken three wins and a draw in the last six games.
Seventh-placed Shaftesbury took the lead after 36 minutes, thanks to a deflected strike from former Christchurch striker Ash Pope.
Hythe improved drastically after the break, and with a much faster tempo, they should have scored several times before they won an 85th-minute penalty.
Filippos Terzidis stepped up and slotted his shot past another former Christchurch player, Lewis Gunstone-Gray, to earn a fully warranted point.
New Milton Town dominated large portions of their 2-0 derby win against Fawley, but victory was not assured until a second strike arrived with two minutes left.
Milton started quickly, and they were unfortunate to have a goal disallowed after three minutes with the linesman's flag raised for offside.
With 10 minutes of the half left, Luke Stone scored his second goal in as many games when he reacted quickest to a loose ball after one of many brilliant saves from Lee Burch.
A super-late Fawley attack ended with Ben Bolton firing over from the edge of the area before New Milton broke away, Ben Cooper scoring with a delightful chip from outside of the penalty area to seal the win.