PORTLAND United may not have had an earth-shattering season, but the Blues are rebuilding for the future.

Manager Brendon King has blooded several youngsters during the campaign, with the emergence of Dorchester loan duo Ben Morris and Josh Williams a highlight.

Left-back James Cox has also claimed a regular place in the side, although he will now join the Royal Navy, while teenage striker Bailey Rowe laid claim to the number nine shirt.

Portland’s season began with a testing trip to promoted side AFC Stoneham and the Blues were promptly 2-0 down in eight minutes before succumbing 4-1.

League troubles would continue to plague the Blues, who drew with Shaftesbury, Horndean and Tadley Calleva in amongst two promising cup runs.

Beginning in the extra preliminary round, Portland beat Solent University 3-0 and Hamworthy United 4-3 to reach the first qualifying round.

Facing a long trip to Gloucestershire, Portland came away with a terrific 2-0 win at Longlevens to set up a mouthwatering home tie with Steve Claridge’s Salisbury.

In the League Cup, Portland also hit their stride with a 5-0 dismantling of Fleet Town as King’s men targeted an improvement on last year’s final loss.

Portland’s dream of reaching the FA Cup would finally dissipate when the Southern Premier South side took a slender 1-0 victory in front of a bumper 574-strong crowd at the Weyline Stadium.

Immediately afterwards, the Blues collected their first league win of the campaign when seeing off Baffins Milton Rovers 2-0 in late September.

Mid-October saw Portland maul an under-strength Amesbury Town 12-2 as Jamie Symes netted four goals and Morris bagging a hat-trick.

However, a 2-0 exit to Exmouth in the FA Vase put paid to the Blues’ tilt at reaching Wembley, although league form evolved.

Portland’s run of seven games unbeaten from October into November – including six wins – was finally ended by a shock 4-3 home loss to perennial strugglers Solent.

Impressive wins against Tadley in the League Cup and 10-man leaders Alresford, with respective 4-1 and 5-0 scorelines, helped Portland close out 2019 with notable improvements.

A 3-2 loss to Hamworthy in foggy conditions did hamper the Blues’ push for the top six, setting into motion a sequence of five defeats in six games.

From there, Portland won their remaining four fixtures of the season amid postponements for the increasingly inclement weather.

Amesbury were brushed off 3-1, while Blues’ hero Lewis Whyton made his 500th appearance in the 2-0 win at Bournemouth Poppies.

One player in particular finished off the season in style, though.

Step forward Ryan McKechnie, who blasted hat-tricks in 5-1 and 6-1 wins over Brockenhurst plus Totton & Eling.

Yet more drama was to come as three members of the Blues’ staff displayed flu-like symptoms an hour into the journey to AFC Portchester.

Eventually, league officials and King called the game off as fears over coronavirus began to take hold.

And the FA duly voided all football in Steps 3 to 7, with no promotion or relegation, two weeks later with the Blues nestled in 11th, 22 points off first-placed Alresford.

Portland also look set to complete the purchase of their ground and now await next season, whenever it goes ahead, as the Blues continue plotting for the future.


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