By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH concluded their calendar year in defeat as they travelled the short distance across to Hartley Wintney on Boxing Day, with the hosts winning three-one after ninety minutes on a grey and overcast afternoon. It signalled an opening loss for Director of Football Mark Molesley following 2 successive victories against Tiverton Town and Merthyr; the enforced two-week break seemingly halting previous momentums as they were made to pay for missed opportunities in North Hampshire as their hosts were simply more clinical.
Proceedings started in a promising fashion for Gosport as they created the first opportunity within the fourth minute of the kick off; Dan Wooden knocking a long pass into the path of Brett Williams whose low shot was saved well by Hartley goalkeeper Loris Marcimain from close range. Williams then suffered an unlucky injury whilst challenging for a deep ball and was substituted by Harry Kavanagh, who released Abdulai Bell-Baggie down the right side on eight minutes; the pacey winger cutting inside before slicing an effort harmlessly over.
Hartley opened the scoring in the eleventh minute and the was arguably against the run of play with Shamar Moore receiving a threaded pass and advancing quickly towards goal; the attacker setting up and sliding his calm effort past Gosport goalkeeper Patrick O’Flaherty for one-nil. The early advantage almost doubled after eighteen minutes as Toby Nevile poked wide following a recycled set piece whilst Jonathan Efedje was also looking dangerous down the wing; the visitors managing to reach the half hour mark without further damage.
After successfully weathering this storm Gosport created a number of chances to equalise scores before the interval; the first coming when Kyal Williams won a dangerous set piece that was powered inches wide after thirty-seven minutes. But the visitors were undeterred as Bell-Baggie was denied by a sliding tackle before a scramble occurred in the Hartley penalty area; Wooden forcing a parry from Marcimain from twelve yards as the home shot-stopper reacted well to further prevent a second piledriver by Bradley Tarbuck in added time.
Both teams started the second half with a steady but measured approach and it took thirteen minutes for the next notable chance, which came for Gosport as Harvey Rew won the ball in midfield and saw a driven effort saved comfortably by Marcimain at his far post. Defender Issiaga Kaba then flicked wide from a deep corner and Ryan Woodford fed through Danny Hollands on the hour mark; the midfielder beating two markers at the edge of the area with tricky foot-work but was prevented from any efforts on target by a brilliant sliding tackle.
Kingsley Eshun was shown a harsh yellow card for a tackle but this didn’t matter as Hartley doubled the lead on sixty-four minutes, the home striker being fouled down in the area whilst he chased down a backpass and Matt Drage calmly converted the resulting penalty sending O’Flaherty the wrong way. Things soon worsened fifteen minutes later as the hosts made it three-nil following a succession of changes and stoppages for both teams; Nevile rising highest from Anis Nuur’s inch-perfect corner and nodding powerfully into the bottom left.
Despite facing yet another inevitable defeat Borough received a glimmer of hope when they were awarded a late penalty of their own with four minutes left on the clock; defender Paul Hodge deemed to have stopped a shot with his hand at close range. Up stepped Bell-Baggie who sent Marcimain diving the wrong way making it three-one before Billie Busari smashed the woodwork with his driven effort; another outstanding parry from the home keeper denying Kavanagh in added time as clinical Hartley held on for the comfortable looking win.
This derby loss represents Gosport’s fourteenth of their Southern League campaign from twenty-two games to date and they now sit eighth from bottom following other results on Boxing Day; the final football for 2022. The new calendar year will however begin with three games against teams around them across a two week period days; starting with a home match versus Winchester City on January 2 (Bank Holiday Monday). Mark Molesley’s side will then travel to Plymouth Parkway five days later before hosting Yate Town on January 14.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Away attacker tangles for possession in close fought local derby on Boxing Day as Hartley Wintney ended Mark Molesley’s unbeaten start as Gosport Director of Football with 3-1 win.