A hard-working Portishead Town slipped to their first defeat in five games at home to Hengrove Athletic in what Town manager Ray Johnston labelled “a game of two halves”.
Nick Lawton was a key cog in the Town midfield as they started brightly, retaining possession in search of finding a break-through.
But it was the visitors who took the lead on nine minutes through Ricky Clark after the ball was slid through to the striker on the right flank and after a costly slip by full-back James Playford, the striker finished with aplomb past Seb Gribble.
Midfielder Lawton tried to make things happen for the home side and Posset began to create a couple of half-chances courtesy of some good work from Joe Lott bombing down the wing from right-back.
The home side levelled things up on 16 minutes through the lively Lawton who managed to find the net after some good penetration on the away defence by the home side. Ash McGrane sparked the goal after some tidy individual skill in the middle of the park before spraying the ball wide to Mark Mapstone who caused havoc with a ball into the box, which eventually found the all-action Lawton.
Both sides were keen to keep the ball on the floor on what was a tricky Bristol Road surface. And their efforts were epitomised by a fine solo effort from Danny Guibarra. The Hengrove forward twisted the Posset central defence inside-out before flashing an effort past goal.
Portishead took the lead on 31 minutes after Andy Lynch whipped in a corner which was met by Captain James Clarke who volleyed the ball towards goal, hitting winger Mark Mapstone on its way into the net. Hengrove struggled to regain focus after losing their lead and were left startled by some more magic from Ash McGrane who did well before pulling the trigger from the edge of the box, forcing a save from Courtney Redwood in the visitors’ goal.
The home side made a lacklustre start to the second-half and were instantly put on red-alert as Ben Crewe rattled the bar with a smart 25-yard drive. Portishead mustered up something of a response as McGrane played a neat one-two with Clarke who was denied by the visiting keeper. Moments later Mark Mapstone hit a clever ball with the outside of his boot for Clarke who was unlucky not to extend his side’s one-goal advantage.
James Dunn and Bradley Haynes entered the fray for Athletic on the hour and Dunn immediately called Gribble into action with a dangerous cross from the left, before Ricky Clark nearly doubled his tally seconds later from inside the box.
Lee Brice came on for Town to replace the impressive Lynch, as manager Johnston reshuffled the pack, pushing James Playford to left-wing from defence. Lawton and Mapstone both had chances after some good work from the lively McGrane but they blazed over from just inside the box.
The home side were punished on 76 minutes after the influential sub Dunn drove the ball into the net after being put through from midfield to equalise for Athletic. The substitute acted as a catalyst for the visitors as he alongside Crewe began to stretch the Portishead defence in the latter stages. At the death, Dunn ran with the ball and cut inside before finding Guibarra who netted a winner from the edge of the box.
Manager Ray Johnston said “we weren’t able to cope with Hengrove in the second-half and we weren’t the same as we were in the first-half”. He went on to laud his younger players and said “the future is bright for the younger lads who have developed through the youth squad.”
Match Report by BEN FISHER