Borough battle ends in Gosport defeat

By Connor Steel / Photograph by Tom Phillips

GOSPORT suffered their fourth defeat of the league season as they travelled to Harrow on Tuesday night for a ‘Borough Battle’, with just the one goal separating the two sides in a closely fought match at Earlsmead Stadium.

A second half winner from Imran Uche sealed the three points for the Londoners who continue their fine start to the campaign in both league and cup, with Shawn Gale’s men unable to build upon a 2-1 win over Truro away from Privett Park days earlier.

Harrow started well on a mild autumn’s evening as they saw the best of an opening 30 minutes with Gosport trying to press their attackers to limited success. A first chance fell the way of George Moore as he curled an effort wide after cutting inside before Michael Bryan found Samuel Adenola in space; the attacker’s effort blocked at source from a Gosport defender. Down the other end an away attack saw a clearance rebound off Matt Casey and roll the wrong side of the post before Bradley Tarbuck collected a short corner to show great footwork as he fired wide via a deflection.

On 32 minutes Theo Widdrington found space after being set-up outside the penalty area, beating his marker and fired towards goal to force Harrow keeper Josh Strizovic into a solid save down low at his near post. Moments later Gosport came forward again and felt they had taken a lead on 36 minutes with Nicky Dembele’s shot cannoning off the crossbar to bounce on the goalline. Depending on angle it looked like the ball had crossed the line, but the referee and linesman denied appeals from the frustrated away contingent.

Tarbuck and Dembele linked up down the left in a final Gosport chance before the interval, but the former’s effort was stopped by a fine defensive tackle on 42 minutes with space opening for the attacker. But despite struggling to put moves together Harrow won a free kick in stoppage time as a foul occurred 30 yards out, which was taken by George Moore as he fired harmlessly over the bar with his ambitious effort; the referee ending a low-key first half shortly afterwards with both sides goalless despite their efforts.

Both sides started much brighter in the second half with a series of half-chances within the opening stages after the interval, with Dan Wooden’s effort on the turn easily gathered by the grateful hands of Strizovic following good work down the right side. Sixty seconds later George Moore found space down the left and saw his shot beat the hands of away keeper Albert White, but fizzed past the wrong side of the post for a goal kick on 53 minutes. A succession of corners for Harrow were unable to test the Gosport defence, who had stayed firm as the game ticked towards the hour mark.

But the hosts continued to push and saw their biggest chance on 58 minutes when a looping cross from the right somehow missed the towering Matt Casey in the area. The ball fell kindly to Frank Keita at the back post with one touch needed to score an open goal with the keeper beaten, only for the striker to fluff his lines. On their next attack White performed a stunning reflex stop to deny James Taylor as the Harrow player caused chaos at a corner, with the parry hitting the post and bouncing to safety from six yards out. Michael Byran then fired over from 25 yards out on 64 minutes before changes for both sides caused a slight lull in proceedings.

Not that Harrow minded as they took a lead on 68 minutes as Uche won a tackle inside the centre circle and was allowed space to run forward against a high-attacking defence that was now tracking back to cover space. Upon his arrival to the edge of the penalty area the striker let fly with a low shot just inside the right post after beating two defenders; finishing off a fine individual goal that sparked cheers from a majority of the small 140 gate for this encounter.

In response Gosport almost punished their hosts on a counter attack on 74 minutes as Dembele broke through the defence into space with time to spare. However the pacey strir was forced out wide after being tracked and his low shot from an angle was saved by Strizovic. But arguably there were better options lining up inside the area had Gosport shown better communication in the final third. Soon afterwards Tarbuck was left alone at the back post and was picked out by a fine cross, but his first time shot was saved by the keeper’s legs before being cleared to safety.

In the final 10 minutes Gosport threatened an equaliser as they found themselves in good attacking positions; each pass and attempted cross being dealt with by a comfortable home defence who were determined to keep a clean sheet. But this didn’t stop Wooden from going close as he chested a ball down to beat his man but fired wide under pressure in stoppage time, whilst substitute Billy Busari’s shot was blocked in the final notable change of the game. The referee blew his final whistle moments later as Harrow won 1-0, a result that seals their third straight clean sheet and moves them up to fourth. They are now a single point adrift of Gosport in third place after 13 games, sitting in the play-off places of the Southern League South.

Attentions for Gosport now turn to four successive home games at Privett Park, which starts with an FA Trophy tie versus Steve Claridge’s Salisbury City in a local derby on Hallowe’en weekend. Seven days  later Beaconsfield Town will be travelling down for their league clash against Shaun Gale’s men as the hosts look to arrest three defeats in 4 league games. Visits from Merthyr Town and Kings Langley await Borough in a tough mid-November week, although cup ties and weather could pay a part. In contrast Harrow do have a FA Trophy tie on Saturday afternoon, but will no doubt be looking ahead to their FA Cup 1st Round Tie next weekend. The step 3 side have earned a trip to Fratton Park in a non-televised clash; League One Portsmouth and recent 2008 winners will be their opponents in an encounter that sums up the magic of England’s famous competition alongside welcomed revenue from this money-spinning tie.

Image: Harrow play Gosport in 2019/20 campaign