By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH confirmed their place in the FA Trophy First Round Proper with a “watchable” shootout success over Salisbury on Saturday afternoon; the dramatic finish coming after a frantic two-all draw that saw two red cards and multiple skirmishes across the afternoon as the two sides resumed their ‘rivalry’ in front of 453 fans at the AEI Stadium.
Salisbury started brighter and saw Thomas Bragg fire harmlessly off-target within just sixty seconds; the visitors further dominating play as Jamar Smith and Joshua Hedges missed ‘great’ chances in rapid succession. And they were rightly rewarded for this control as Noah Coppin won the ball in midfield; the winger thundering into the left corner from range.
The home team looked jaded in response due to illness and their midweek FA Cup replay loss but did work themselves into proceedings with Dan Wooden seeing an ambitious shot comfortably saved. There was furthermore quick interplay that released Bradley Tarbuck on thirty-three minutes, who looked indecisive on the edge of the box and it was cleared.
Coppin nearly added to the Salisbury lead shortly afterwards as he broke free of Harry Kavanagh and brushed the side netting from an angle; Sam Ashton having a drive blocked at source seconds later. Gosport then saw a goal disallowed for offside as Corey Jordan blasted in a set-piece; Rafa Ramos then booked for a late tackle before the half time break.
Borough came out quickly upon the restart and equalised on forty-nine minutes after a fine ball was played into Ramos; the striker turning his markers and nestling into the bottom corner from range. And this became two-one on the hour as a corner was headed into the path of the same player, who hooked past Salisbury keeper Joshua Gould from six yards.
It should have been two-all immediately as Ashton floated a cross into the feet of Coppin, who somehow dragged wide from an impeccable position with plenty of time. This was followed by a ‘spate’ of substitutions and niggly fouls from the two teams that resulted in a number of scuffles; referee James Kerten booking six players in a busy four minute period.
Rory Williams became the first player to be sent off as he was shown a second yellow for ‘dissent’, whilst fellow captain Sido Jombati followed for a clumsy tackle to halt a counter attack on eighty-five minutes. And this drama wasn’t over as Salisbury equalised in stoppage time when a cross found Coppin; who cut inside and sent his shot into the right corner.
A penalty shootout soon followed with Wooden and Jordan scoring their efforts; the home keeper Toby Steward further saving one spot-kick to make it two-one after Ashton had netted. Another two penalties were saved by Steward in front of the Borough club-house with his third stop sealing a three-one home win on spot-kicks; Kavanagh scoring a 3rd kick.
Borough should find out their opponents in the ‘First Round’ after the draw is held on Monday afternoon; the cup match due to take place in three weeks time (October 28). Attentions must however turn back to Southern League action after a busy week of intense knockout ties as Gosport host Dorchester on Wednesday, before travelling to Salisbury (14/10).
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Home players celebrate goal in second half response before winning 3-1 on penalties.