IT was a game that captured the imagination of football fans as far away as South America, but there was no FA Cup upset for the competition’s youngest manager to celebrate.
Romsey Town’s 22 year-old head coach James Phillips received messages of support from as far afield as Chile, Argentina and the USA as he prepared to make history at The Bypass Ground.
The pre-match publicity also helped attract a bumper crowd of 201, but Fareham Town did not read the script as they came from behind to win 3-1 and a place in the preliminary round against Longwell Sports or Melksham Town..
Student Sam Muzinga gave Romsey an early lead when he sidefooted in Josh Ramsey’s cross from the right.
Romsey may have gone on to win the game had a blistering strike from No. 10 Pedro Carvalho, a former Sporting Lisbon youth team player and the first of many Phillips signings, not been saved as half-time approached.
But that was as good as it got for Romsey.
Fareham must have thought it was not their day when defender Ryan Woodford struck a post with a first-half penalty, but the visitors went on to dominate the second half.
Their pressure was eventually rewarded with two goals in five minutes.
Jordan Neal equalised by slotting in Mark Wheeler’s pass and, in the 78th minute, livewire Bradey Norton curled in a stunning free-kick, into the far corner from the left side of the penalty area, on his 21st birthday.
It was a goal worthy of winning the FA Cup final, never mind an extra preliminary round tie.
Carvalho was then denied from point-blank range, but Fareham’s place in the hat was assured when Liam Robinson beat two defenders before slotting his side’s third into the far corner three minutes from time.
Phillips will be back working as a custom vehicle builder for Action Van, Swanwick today. The former Hounsdown school pupil, who lives with his mum and stepdad in Totton and whose sister Jade was working behind the bar at the Bypass on Saturday, was pleased with Romsey’s performance after 48 hours in the limelight.
He said: “The last few days have been crazy, I’ve had football fans and other young coaches from Argentina, Chile and USA congratulating me and I had 20 new Twitter followers in ten minutes when the news first came out.
“But we never expected to beat Fareham, they showed why they play a league higher in the second half. “Our average age is 19-20, it’s a very young group, a lot of them have come from Saturday Junior League teams and have no experience against Wessex Premier opposition.
“They’ve all got ability, they just came up against a side with more know-how. But if we play like that for the rest of the season we’ll do well.”
The Bypass Ground has had a facelift since relegation to Wessex One last season, with new perimeter fencing and a turnstile a notable improvement.
“We wanted to make the place more welcoming, everyone’s been superb at making it happen and hopefully it will attract a few more people to watch us,” said Phillips. “Last season's average gate was 26 but we smashed that after about five minutes!”