By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH extended their outstanding start to this 2023-24 campaign as they travelled to Merthyr Town on Saturday afternoon in a “top of the league” encounter; the team taking advantage upon a first half red card with ease to clinch a four-one away victory against their Welsh opponents in front of over a thousand fans at a dry Penydarren Park.
But it didn’t begin well for the visitors as Merthyr scored an opener through Ricardo Rees within two minutes; the striker hammering past Gosport keeper Toby Steward from Olly Mehew’s brilliant cross. And this lead should have doubled on eleven minutes as Rees was denied by a fine defensive block; Kieran Evans dragging over this rebound from an angle.
Merthyr were however dealt an injury blow when Evans was substituted, whilst things worsened on seventeen minutes as Aneurin Livermore was deservedly sent off for a late tackle. It didn’t take long for Gosport to level up the scores with a passing move releasing Alex Barsa who calmly controlled the ball in a dangerous spot and fired past Jaimie Cogman.
Despite being reduced to ten men, it was the home outfit who appeared the likelier to net again after the ‘half hour’ with Mehew blasting the far post and Rees’ shot being blocked on the line; Tom Stokes also slicing wide. But it was Gosport who entered the interval ahead as they scored their second; Barsa running through on goal and slotting into the corner.
Both sides continued to push upon the restart with Harvey Rew firing straight at Cogman and Rees nodding over a fine delivery that deceived the away defence; the former also escaping yellow for a misjudged foul. A series of corners were then calmly cleared to safety from the Gosport backline in quick succession with the home team attacking to little avail.
The next goal was coming and it arrived for Gosport on sixty-four minutes when Bradley Tarbuck controlled a ball down the left; the winger turning his markers and placing a fast low effort across the keeper to make it 3-1. This prompted the visitors to make substitutions with Jonathan Efedge and Zak Sharp both entering the match going into its final passage.
A flurry of home chances then followed with Liam Angel having his curled free kick saved by Steward and Tom Handley dragging wide from close range on seventy-five minutes. Any late comeback was however thwarted by the visitors who then added extra gloss to this scoreline with a fourth goal in stoppage time; Efedge driving home to confirm all 3 points.
Other results mean that Gosport leapfrog Chesham United into pole position in the latest Southern League table; which offers Joe Lea and Pat Suraci a boost going into an exciting but tough week of action. The side will first be hosting AFC Totton on Wednesday night in a local derby before facing higher league opposition Welling United in a huge FA Cup tie.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Merthyr player tries to play the ball away from close attention of the Gosport defender.