Poole Town’s U23 made it back-to-back 7-1 wins with a hard-earned victory over Bashley in the Hampshire Combination & Development League U23 West.
The final scoreline at the Glen Max stadium didn’t represent how tight the opening forty-five minutes were, with Bashley keeping the away side largely at bay.
With Josh Carmichael now deemed close to full match fitness, only two players involved with the first team started the match – attacking duo Joe Wickham and Will Fletcher.
Poole showed intent from the first whistle, starting an attack into Bashley’s half that ended with a cross flashing past Elliot Rossiter without making any contact.
The deadlock would be broken in somewhat fortuitous circumstances after 10 minutes, with the Bashley goalkeeper punching Miguel Marshall’s corner into his own net.
Young Dolphins almost made it two minutes later, with Joe Wickham teeing up Stephenson, who couldn’t convert from close range.
Despite having a few chances, neither side were in control – and the hosts came mere inches from equalising after 19 minutes played.
Bashley’s Neemo Nixon struck the bar, with Dolphins shotstopper Will Butler well beaten.
Shortly after the game devolved into a midfield battle, with both sides falling to control possession in any meaningful areas.
The away side resorted to utilising Fletcher as a target man, with the plan almost bearing fruit when Matt Stephenson had a close range effort saved.
Bash had grown into the game, but were still yet to trouble Will Butler in the Poole goal. Callum Hockton saw his rising shot caught by the diminutive keeper, but came no closer in the first half.
Wickham drew one final save from the Bash keeper prior to Stephenson tapping just wide of the far post, after Fletcher had driven into the box to tee him up.
Joe Wickham saw another shot spilled right before the half time whistle, which brought an end to a tight first half.
Dolphins restarted with intent, and it took just one minute of second half action for Poole to double their lead.
Wilkinson’s floated cross into the area was well met by a towering header from Will Fletcher, who sent the ball past a stranded ‘keeper.
A harsh handball in the box allowed Fletcher to effectively seal the game after just 51 minutes.
Whilst the initial spot kick was well saved, the match official called it back to be retaken, after deeming the goalkeeper to have moved off his line early.
Given a reprieve, Fletcher put it in the exact same spot, handing Dolphins a near unassailable lead.
To make matters even worse for the hosts, Fletcher made it a seven minute hat-trick when his tame shot snuck past the Bashley goalkeeper to make it four.
Fletcher continued his dominant performance by converting from a corner, with Bashley deflated after Poole’s quick flurry of goals.
Bash were still yet to have a second half effort, with Poole controlling proceedings. Poole struck again on the counter, with Elliot Rossiter slotting home with the aid of the far post.
6-0 up after just 65 minutes, Poole still didn’t look finished, quickly winning the ball back from the restart and instantly breaking forward.
Substitute Luka Chalwell rode multiple challenges before slipping in Rossiter, who couldn’t score his second in under a minute, with the Bashley keeper tipping his effort over.
Rossiter would eventually grab a second, after Bashley failed to clear from a corner. Recycling possession, Wickham strode into the box, cutting it back to Rossiter.
With a swivel to open up space, the winger found the bottom corner with his strike.
Now 7-0 up, the Young Dolphins could have been excused for a brief lapse in concentration, and whilst it looked like Bash would have their first chance of the half on the break, Pritchard rushed back to execute a fine sliding tackle.
The resultant corner would produce the hosts’ first shot on target in the second period, with a long-range strike drawing a strong save from Butler.
By now Bashley were giving as good as they got, turning up the pace of the game. Each team strode forward in their numbers, and upon losing the ball, would be countered with just as many men from the opposition.
Confusion at the back for Poole almost allowed Bashley an open goal, but Butler and Wooley combined to keep the ball away from goal.
With ten minutes left, Bashley would finally get their consolation goal. After Poole couldn’t quite thwart an attack from the hosts after multiple chances to clear, Hockton blasted past Butler to get Bash on the scoreboard.
Hockton arguably should have had a chance for a second from the spot, after the striker beat Butler to a ball over the top. Despite the surrounding Bash players, the referee wasn’t interested.
The following added time passed without incident, with Dolphins making it two wins from two.
Poole’s next fixture at home to Ringwood has been postponed, due to the U18s involvement in the FA Youth Cup the same day.
Poole: Butler (g/k), Medway, Marshall, Pritchard, Mayo, Wooley, Wickham (C) (Clent), Rossiter, Fletcher (Greenwood), Stephenson (Challwell), Wilkinson