Winchester defender John Saltmarsh faces a two-month lay-off after sustaining serious facial injuries in Winchester's 4-3 defeat by South Premier League Division 2 table-toppers Fareham at Henry Cort.

Saltmarsh, 23, was taken to hospital with a fractured jaw and facial wounds after being struck in the mouth during the first half of a see-saw derby.

"He lost several front teeth and had 12 stitches in and around his month, in addition to fracturing his jaw," confirmed Winchester coach Adie Adams.

Fareham's touchline medic had to quickly put Saltmarsh's teeth in milk so as to ensure they were still "alive" by the time he reached hospital.

Saltmarsh's injury occurred with Winchester leading 3-2 courtesy of a first half brace by Ben Hibberd, who scored either side of Andy Winnett's equaliser.

Fareham launched a series of penetrating aerial attacks on the Winchester goal - tactics that clearly unnerved the visitors.

From one such move, Southampton University student Jamie Cook set up Marvin Harper's opener.

Shortly afterwards, Danny Makaruk potted a penalty corner to give Fareham an early 2-0 advantage.

But for Ally Birch's reflexes, Fareham might easily have struck a crucial third.

Unable to get out of their own half during the initial ten minutes, Winchester clawed one back from a Hibberd drag flick.

The chunky 11-goal striker then laid on Winnett's leveller.

Winchester began to call the tune and pull the strings in midfield.

The visitors forced two more penalty corners and took the lead with Hibberd rifling a deflected shot into the roof of the net.

Just as Winchester appeared to have gained control, so Saltmarsh was badly injured.

"It had an unsettling affect on our game and everyone in the Winchester ranks - and those in Fareham colours - were obviously very upset and concerned," Adams added.

Immediately after the break, George Lambert had an opportunity to provide Winchester with a two-goal cushion, but his attempt was smothered by goalkeeper Dave Staniforth.

The miss cost Winchester dear as Fareham's fitness began to tell - and Craig Peel pounced from a penalty corner to level the scores at 3-3.

The outcome remained in the balance - until Peel struck a reverse-stick winner to give Fareham a sixth win in seven matches.

"We would have added a couple more after that, but Birch made a couple of fine saves," reflected Fareham coach Nigel Cook.

The win gives Fareham a three-point cushion at the top - a lead Cook wants to see extended before the Christmas break.

"Apart from Gore Court, our pre-Christmas games are all against sides in the bottom half of the table, so it's important we cash in.

"That means plenty of focus and not taking our foot off the pedal," he said.

Fareham second team were fuming about Luke Gould's late disallowed goal which cost them an Open Premier League win at Canterbury Pilgrims.

Adam Duke and Colin Bradbury (penalty flick) scored for Fareham, with a furious Gould maintaining "I wuz robbed" after seeing an umpire rule out his potential winner.