Joe Johnson scored US Portsmouth’s second goal in his 2-1 win in Wessex Premier at Hythe & Dibden. Photo: Neil Marshall

Goals from assistant manager Tom Jeffes and top scorer Joe Johnson opened up a 2-0 lead over Waterside.

And though Hythe responded, with his first goal in 12 League and Cup appearances, the United States held on for a third away league win of the season.

Without the performance of the two goalkeepers – visitor Dylan Kramer and Hythe-loaned Pompey Academy shooter Conor Manderson – it would have been a much more meaningful encounter.

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“Although we won, the first half was the worst we’ve played since I’ve been manager,” conceded US boss Tom Grice.

“We kept giving the ball away cheaply, our work ethic was not there.

“Hythe was no walk in the park at all – without Dylan Kramer we could have been down three or 4-1 at halftime. They won’t sit on zero for long.

“Their goalie (Masterson) was absolutely classy, ​​he played really well – but for both goalies you would be looking for sixes and sevens on both sides.”

After a ‘talk to’ interval – football manager speaks for a rollover – Grice had a ‘positive reaction’ and Johnson called back into the starting XI after hamstring doubt saw him on the bench for the midweek loss to Horndean, doubled the lead with his eighth goal of the term.

Hythe’s long, long wait for a league goal – August 17 had been the last day they scored in Wessex – came to an end when George Ashby’s free kick broke through the American wall. “It was a poor, poor wall,” said Grice as Hythe only scored for the third time in 13 Premier games.

The United States made their debut for Florjet Vulcaj, who entered central midfielder in the second half but found himself in the middle half alongside Jeffes after Obi Saidy left with a tight hamstring .

With John Cass suspended due to five bookings, Frankie Paige – in center midfielder against Horndean – returned to right-back and Cam Quirke was called up to center midfielder.

Grice is hoping to strengthen his squad over the next week, with center-half Connor Grant – recently from Horndean – training again this week.

“So far we’ve beaten the teams I expected us to beat and they probably weren’t the ones we probably shouldn’t beat,” said the boss.

“At the moment I would say we were on the right track for a finish in the bottom half of the table, but with the level of players that are offered to me, I think we could potentially talk about the top 10.

“It would be a hell of a success considering that we have lost around 80% of our players and I haven’t paid anyone a dime this season.”

The United States travel to AFC Stoneham next weekend and meet their former striker Callum Laycock, who brought his seasonal goals tally to 10 on Saturday with a brace in a 4-2 victory at Alresford.

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