Fareham Town hold table-toppers

It was tremendously nervy work at times but Fareham Town held league-leaders Christchurch to a 1-1 draw at Cams Alders on Tuesday night, with the visitors dropping points for only the second time this season.

Christchurch were keen on revenge after their hosts knocked them out in a dramatic FA Cup tie earlier in the campaign and if form was anything to go by, doing so shouldn’t have been an overly difficult task.

Town have looked good this season but Christchurch have been the early pace setters and, for that matter, have set an extremely high target for rivals to meet.

Of their first 12 league games, they have won 10, scoring 35 and conceding only 7 in the process. It has left them top with some quite considerable breathing space.

The opening exchanges suggested something entirely different, however, with Fareham’s Gary Austin in particular causing a number of problems to a static Christchurch back line. When they did decide to press the winger, his abundant pace and nonchalant twists and turns on the ball left them in their wake.

When it mattered most, however, there was no-one in the box to aid his direct, spontaneous bursts into the Christchurch half.

It only made the job easier for Christchurch who, before long, settled into their game plan which appeared to mostly consist of containment. They were still creating their own chances, though, with two opportunities going begging either side of a corner.

Austin then again stretched the visitor’s back four but, after the receiving the ball back from the ever-present Graham Lindsey, had his shot blocked.

It told the tale of a close first half which had little in the way of genuine action.

Half time had its effect though and Christchurch returned keen to exploit their status as table toppers. A free header for Brad McGookin wasn’t converted but Fareham didn’t heed the warning signs and soon fell behind.

Ben Osborne met a drilled cross at the far post and it was now up to the Creeksiders to show some urgency.

Though that urgency never truly materialised, Fareham did look marginally more expansive as the bitterly cold night drew to a close. Some long Danny Thompson throws were causing confusion in the box and there was a sense that, despite their admirable defensive record, the Christchurch defence was somewhat susceptible to a well placed set piece.

And so it proved as Lindsey jumped highest from a 61st minute free kick, bringing the tie back to parity.

It seemed to inspire Fareham but, without anything genuinely penetrative, before long, enthusiasm began to dwindle in the home end and the away side pressed with ever-greater intent.

They could easily have won it in the final few minutes when Dan Thompson – of Christchurch this time – managed to fire a close range volley high and wide of the goal.

Fareham fans, at the opposite end of the pitch, blew a collective sigh of relief and, moments later, the final whistle went on what was a plucky, ungracious but ultimately satisfactory point for both sides.