By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH continued their strong start to the Southern League campaign as they thrashed Welsh-side Merthyr Town on Saturday afternoon, beating their opponents 5-0 with a comfortable and clinical performance to move up to second place after winning 10 games out of 15 to this point.
For the 550-plus supporters in attendance for this encounter it was both poignant and worth the wait to see Borough rack up the goals, with the 3pm kick-off pushed back by 15 minutes due to travel issues for the visitors in their four-hour journey south.
Following a poignant service for Remembrance Day, Gosport had the first chance after just seven minutes when good interplay found Dan Wooden in space, with the striker’s low effort saved well by Merthyr goalkeeper Jamie Cogman. But it didn’t take long for the next opportunity as Borough won a corner down the right, with a well worked routine being converted by Theo Lewis who was lurking inside the penalty area to open the scoring.
Falling behind after just 11 minutes, Merthyr Town responded with spells of good possession down the right side which saw them win several corners that were cleared away by home defenders. The visitors had their first opportunity on the quarter hour mark as Morgan Clarke cut inside and fired wide of the post, while defender Daniel Bernard had a header blocked by the body of a home defender moments later from a corner.
Down the other end, Borough were keen to win the midfield battle and good interplay found Harvey Rew in space, with the right-back’s effort always rising over the crossbar. But Privett Park was celebrating just after the half hour mark as Gosport doubled their lead. Counter-attacking from a Merthyr corner, the ball was played forward by Bradley Tarbuck who found Mason Walsh. He made no mistake in calmly slotting home his low effort.
To their credit, Merthyr never gave up and continued to have the majority of the possession but struggled to break down the stubborn home defence. Their best chance came on 42 minutes when a cross by Frazer Thomas found Curtis Jemmett-Hutson unmarked, but the striker’s jump was slightly off-balance and his header drifted harmlessly over from six yards. In the final action of the half Matt Casey connected with a volley that narrowly missed the crossbar, referee Lewis Sandoe blowing for the interval soon afterwards.
It was a slow start to the second half as Merthyr made two quick substitutes in order to inject more impetus to their attacks, Tom Hillman and Dylan Jones replacing Thomas and Clarke respectively. But the changes didn’t have the desired effect. Gosport made it 3-0 moments after a shot from Walsh was blocked. Good interplay saw Wooden and Lewis link up, with the striker finishing off the move by curing a low shot off the far post into the net on 64 minutes.
With the game won and little pressure on Merthyr, the visitors had two great chances to get a consolation goal. Firstly Hillman beat and rounded home keeper Albert White with a loose ball only to see his shot drift wide from the unguarded net, before Kerry Morgan dragged his spinning shot after being found in space down the left on 81 minutes with the goal gaping. After two home changes brought Nicky Dembele and Matt Paterson onto the pitch, Cameron Keetch had the only yellow card for a misjudged foul as he broke up a dangerous counter-attack.
Gosport added a fourth goal on 84 minutes as Merthyr attempted to play out of the defence with an underhit back-pass to the goalkeeper intercepted by Dembele, who calmly slotted home past a stranded Cogman into the bottom right corner sparking jubilant scenes around Privett Park. After a final chance for Merthyr as Corey Shepard fired over the crossbar, Borough made it 5-0 with literally the last kick of the game; substitute Luke Hallett heading into the net from a corner to cap a five-star performance on and off the field.
Although second in the league table, Shawn Gale will be keen to end any complacency with other teams having games in hand due to cup competitions at this early stage of the season. Gosport will hope to continue this free-scoring win into their next game which will see them host Kings Langley on Wednesday night, while an away trip to Taunton Town awaits them next weekend. With both sides in the lower half of the Southern League table, many fans will hope their team can solidify play-off position before a busy December that will see Borough play seven times either side of Christmas.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Gosport players celebrate a goal in fading light at Privett Park