By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH begun the 2023/24 Southern Premier season in perfect style as they played Bracknell Town on Saturday afternoon; convincingly beating last season’s runners up ‘two-nil’ at the AEI Stadium with both of their finishes arriving late in the second half to offer joint-managers Pat Suraci and Joe Lea a winning debut watched by a big crowd.
Despite early possession for Bracknell it was actually the home side who had the first chance after seven minutes; Dan Wooden outmuscling his markers on the counter attack and passing a low cross into Rafa Ramos who had a hook shot saved by Michael Eacott. Minutes later Harry Kavanagh saw a dipped cross tipped away under pressure in gusty winds
But Bracknell grew into the game as heavy rain subsided and enjoyed a spell of possession leading up to their opening shot on goal; Kameron English showing tricky footwork to cut inside and brush the side netting with a low shot. And the visitors went closer after 31 minutes when they won a set-piece at shooting distance; Ben Harris firing it past the posts.
Both teams seemed to be lacking the final pass through the first half and this was evident when Borough broke forward with just nine minutes left before the break; Antonio Diaz’s ball narrowly missing Ramos as he raced through. But when Wooden released his partner moments later it was much more effective with Ramos hooking over the keeper and wide.
Sunny conditions awaited upon the restart with both teams showing their mild frustrations and an overriding urge to win control of possession; Rory Williams and Ashley Lodge seeing yellow cards for niggly tackles. It was Gosport who were looking more dangerous in attack however; their next chance coming on the hour as Wooden floated a header off goal.
Substitutions then followed across both sides with Bracknell enjoying a period of sustained possession; patient build-up play feeding Jordan Espirit who saw his tame shot saved by Gosport keeper Toby Steward when it was arguably easier to score. Down the other end Diaz advanced down the right and tried to chip the keeper who got back to force a corner.
Borough opened the scoring after seventy three minutes as a corner was floated into the box and the initial header was cleared off the line; falling to the lurking Charlie Wassmer who sliced home. And home fans were jubilant with just eight minutes left as Alex Barsa found space before whipping a perfect ball to Rew who nodded in the corner to seal the win.
This victory and clean sheet will no doubt boost confidence for the new campaign with future tests to come for Gosport over the next few weeks; the team having to travel to Plymouth Parkway on Saturday for their second match. They will then entertain local rivals in Basingstoke on August 16 (Wednesday) before another away tie at Swindon Supermarine.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Home attackers celebrate one of two goals in a brilliant victory versus Bracknell Town.