Laws Sends Terras Packing

Weymouth legend David Laws marked his Portland United debut by notching the winner against the club where he made his name.

The 34-year-old, who joined the Blues after a glittering eight year career with the Terras, sent Steve Claridge’s side packing with a decisive third on 51 minutes at Grove Corner.

The islanders grabbed a fully-deserved pre-season friendly win over their near neighbours after sprinting into an early two goal lead through James Reeve and Weymouth defender Scott Dennis’ own goal.

Ex-Blue Mark Kenway reduced the arrears midway through the opening period and after Laws’ trademark finish, Ian Hutchinson grabbed a consolation for the under strength Terras direct from a corner.

But the day belonged to the big Wearsider who admitted the occasion against his former employers had been “surreal”.

He said: “It was a weird situation playing against Weymouth rather than for them but one I enjoyed every minute of it.

“I had some really happy times over at Weymouth where some of my best friends still are and while scoring goals is always special, today was a bit surreal.

“But despite all the great memories, I’m a Portland player now and I can’t wait for the new season because I’m convinced we are a team on the way up.”

Portland defied manager Nick Preston’s pre-match predictions by racing into an early lead.

A devastating fifth minute through ball by winger Stuart Heath was seized upon by Reeve and the lanky striker tucked it past trialist keeper Carl Steven.

Just sixty seconds later the Blues doubled their advantage when a fizzing right wing cross by wide man Chris Evans saw the unlucky Dennis turn the ball past the former Thatcham gloveman at his near post.

Portland’s joy soon turned to despair though when Heath, who was sidelined for most of last season with a knee injury, was withdrawn when the problem flared up again.

With Matthew Hale back in action for Weymouth after a bout of sickness, the Terras started to get their act together and pulled one back on 28 minutes when Kenway hammered a volley past Portland keeper Paul Myers.

The game dissolved into a niggly affair after the break with neither side managing to string many passes together on a Grove Corner pitch not suited to neat football.

Laws made the game safe for the hosts with a typical turn and 12 yard shot past substitute keeper Jason Matthews and came close to adding to his tally a few moments later but his chip drifted the wrong side of the upright.

The flight of Hutchinson’s corner deceived Myers to cross the line just after the hour but Weymouth couldn’t find a way back despite throwing on striker Lee Phillips.

Blues boss Nick Preston was delighted with his side’s form, just a week after returning to training.

He said: “I fully expected us to be a little off the pace but the lads pulled out all the stops to claim a great result.

“The players have set a standard now and if they keep it up, we will have a good chance of improving on our eighth place finish we achieved last season.

“The signing of David Laws has signalled our intentions and he’s already shown signs of forming a good partnership with James Reeve. The only sad note was losing Stuart Heath to injury so early and we’re keeping our fingers crossed it’s not too serious.”

Weymouth boss Steve Claridge said the game had been a valuable exercise.

He said: “There were a few good performances and a few not so good but it’s fair to say the game taught me a lot which is what friendlies are about.

“The lads were much better in the second half but despite the result, I feel we’re in a good position at this stage of pre-season.”

Portland United:
Paul Myers, Daniel Bews (Michael Wisden 68), Terry Oldrid, Rodgers,
Wallis, Chris Evans (Tizard 66), Turrell, Mason (Perkins 80), David Laws 1 (Holmes, 80),
James Reeve 1, Stuart Heath (Whalley, 13)

Carl Steven (Jason Matthews 45), Stephen Tully (Mark Kenway 26 1), Simon Browne,
Ian Hutchinson 1 (Harvey 65), Walker, Scott Dennis, Matthew Hale (John Lamb 65),
Martyn Sullivan (Gill 66), Scott Partridge (Lee Phillips 65), Carl Mutch,
Gary Funnell (Mark Robinson 51)

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