By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH eased their relegation fears on Easter Monday as they secured a tight one-nil victory against Hartley Wintney; Abdulai Baggie scoring the winner to decide this nervy derby as his team earnt their 2nd home success this year and finally ended a goalless streak at the AEI Stadium that stretched to January.
Under gorgeous sunny skies it was the hosts who started quickly and they created the opening chance in the fourth minute when Harry Kavanagh’s deep delivery was tipped away by Marcin Brozozowski under pressure by Harvey Rew; the Hartley goalkeeper further stopping a powerful effort from Abdulai Baggie moments later.
Danny Hollands also attempted an acrobatic effort that landed on the cricket pitches behind the fence before an injury to Hartley’s Maxwell Mullins forced a tactical change; the visitors seeing Zidan Akers and Aris Nuur linking up for their first shot on target that was safely parried over the bar by home keeper Patrick O’Flaherty.
A breakthrough finally arrived for Borough after twenty-eight minutes when a scooped pass by Hollands split the organised away backline and found Baggie in space; the striker taking a slight touch before unleashing a calm drive across Brozozowski inside the bottom left corner with away players appealing for potential offside.
This opener seemed to calm proceedings going into the half time break with both sides seeing themselves in good positions before breaking down; a mixture of organised defending, sloppy passing and breezy winds all evidently playing a huge part as Gosport maintained their deserved but unrelaxing advantage for the interval.
Hartley came out firing upon the restart and almost equalised after fifty-two minutes as Adam Laaref forced a diving save from home goalkeeper Patrick O’Flaherty; this resulting corner seeing a quick counter attack that finished with an offside flag after Tyrese Dyce somehow smashed against the crossbar despite an open goal.
The visitors looked to capitalise upon their second half dominance with an ambitious header from Nuur flying over the crossbar from Archy Taylor’s cross before Louie Paget slashed wide at an angle; Billie Busari going close down the other end with a quick forward sprint and shot that sailed harmlessly over the clubhouse roof.
Substitutions soon followed for both teams going into the final twenty-five minutes with very good chances at either end; Borough seeing Rew’s effort deflected over Brozozowski before it was cleared off the goal-line by an away defender whilst Laaref dragged wide of the left corner after being fed by his captain Harry Cooksley.
The final fifteen minutes saw multiple crosses and set pieces from Hartley as they looked for a late equaliser; other scorelines adding to their panic and frustration that led to a series of soft fouls. This allowed Gosport to break up away momentum throughout seven minutes of stoppage time as they held on for a valuable victory.
Following the other results across the league Gosport sit seven points clear of the drop zone with only North Leigh able to catch Mark Moseley’s team, who mathematically need a single point to guarantee safety. They will now travel to Bracknell on Saturday before hosting Hendon and Beaconsfield in the final weeks of action.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Home midfielder wins hard battle to a loose pass as Gosport eased fears of relegation on Easter Monday, consigning rivals Hartley Wintney to nervy one-nil loss at packed AEI Stadium.