RECENTLY-appointed Blandford manager Luke Crane has targeted a top-five finish in the Dorset Premier League after a “well controlled” success over champions Portland United.

Royals player Crane has enjoyed a strong start to life in the dugout with seven points from three games since taking over predecessor and friend Jamie Haylock, who resigned at the start of December.

Blandford have yet to concede during the new man’s tenure and while their goal led a charmed life against championship-chasing Portland, who twice hit the woodwork, the boss was adamant his side were worthy winners.

Crane told the Daily Echo: “We were in control from start to finish and restricted them to just three or four chances. It was refreshing to see a team take the game to Portland and they didn’t like it at all.

“They love to play it out from the back and they will not change their style for anyone so we pushed the front four right on top of them and took the opportunities when they came.

“We won a lot of balls we had no right to and got the better of them by working hard.

“There has been a lot of talk from their side, saying they were not at their best but that was the most effective performance from a Blandford side for many years.”

Rob Manson’s 35-yard pile driver lit the blue touch paper after 15 minutes at Park Road, while busy frontman Craig Haim capped a hard-working display by scrambling home a crucial second just before the hour.

With conditions worsening, the hosts looked comfortable before substitute Dan Snow rounded off the scoring with a well-crafted chip from distance in the fourth minute of added time.

The success saw Royals strengthen their grip on seventh spot in the Dorset Premier League, and while Crane admitted the top four would be tough to catch, he could see no reason why his charges should not finish the season with a flourish.

Crane added: “We have given a few people the chance they deserve and those who have come in, especially those from the reserves, have stepped up really well.

"The target is fifth place. The two teams above us have to play each other at the weekend before we play Bridport and with the squad we have, I believe we are more than capable of achieving that.”

Royals: Martin, Oliver, Holland, Boulton, Dedics-Taylor, Hall (Snow, 70), Manson, Beckerley, Hyde (Wareham, 65), Birtwell (Birchum, 70), Haim.

  • Elsewhere, bottom club Poole Borough lost 1-0 at Shaftesbury Town.