By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH exited the FA Trophy at their first hurdle on Saturday afternoon after another terrible display away in Somerset, losing two nil to Bristol Manor Farm at the BS3 Services Stadium. It took 2 good second half goals to seal this brilliant home success against higher league opposition in this third qualifying round encounter, Shaun Gale’s outfit yet again struggling to make an impact away from Privett Park as they fell to their second successive defeat and eighth overall during their mixed opening two months of this year.
In glorious sunny conditions Gosport made a quick start as they saw the first notable chance in just the third minute with Harry Kavanagh running down the right wing at pace, his cut-back resulting in a panicked period of pinball which concluded with home goalkeeper Benjamin John producing a smart save down low from the lurking Andreas Robinson twelve yards out. In response Manor Farm settled the away pressures by keeping possession in the midfield area and won a couple of corners that came to nothing in the opening 15 minutes.
Manor Farm almost made this pressure count on twenty-one minutes as a low pass found Evander Grubb in space, the attacker’s chipped effort lobbing Gosport goalkeeper Patrick O’Flaherty only to be headed off the line with fans already celebrating behind the goal. The visitors recovered as Dan Wooden headed wide from a cross down the left moments later before Abdulai Bell-Baggie advanced into space on the half hour beating his markers, but curled his effort from an angle inches wide of the far post with three defenders left standing.
The visitors went even closer to scoring on thirty-seven minutes as Kyal Williams played a deep cross to find the onrushing Harvey Rew who forced a diving save from John; Matt Paterson narrowly slicing over his effort as the ball fell kindly to his weaker foot. Down the other end Manor Farm dominated the last spell before half time and thought they were unlucky not to get a penalty in additional time, Grubb firing goalwards with a shot that was deflected onto the post; the officials turning down passionate home appeals for deliberate hand-ball.
The visitors came out with attacking momentums after the interval as Finley Walsh-Smith headed harmlessly over from a deep corner on forty-eight minutes; Rew seeing his effort roll tamely into the gloves of John as a deflection took the power off. Having survived this pressure Manor Farm steadily piled men forward to regain control of proceedings before the hour mark; Owen Howe firing just inches wide of the woodwork from a tight angle before Grubb saw his similar effort over after Jake Gosling had played him through on goal in the area.
Home supporters were jubilant in the sixty-third minute as Manor Farm deservedly took the lead with Grubb converting his third opportunity of the afternoon, breaking free inside the crowded area and rifling home into the top corner for one-nil; the goal capping a brilliant performance for this youngster as he wheeled away in celebration. The visitors responded with two substitutions as Harvey Bradbury came off the bench, although he failed to make much impact against the organised home backline being led by their captain Aron Robbins.
To their credit Gosport did create half chances in the final quarter with Bradbury heading wide an in-swinging cross from Danny Holland and Wooden forcing another smart save from John’s right leg; but they were really punished when the hosts doubled their lead on 75 minutes. It came as neat interplay reached the left foot of Gosling in space, who made simply no mistake in dribbling past three players inside the area and tucking the ball into the bottom right corner for two-nil; which is how it stayed despite multiple late corners from Gosport.
Defeat means that Shaun Gale’s team have now crashed out of two nationwide competitions against outfits from the Southern League Division 1, having exited the FA Cup with a 2-1 loss at Paulton Rovers. And after a mixed start to the new league campaign it won’t be long before pressure truly mounts on the manager with tough matches awaiting the team over the coming fortnight. This begins with the away trip to the Met Police on Tuesday evening before travelling to Hanwell Town next Saturday afternoon for their 4th straight journey.
PICTURED BY ALEX BARNHAM PHOTOGRAPHY: Grubb wheels away in jubilant scenes after opening the scoring for Bristol Manor Farm in the FA Trophy, ending Gosport’s hopes of progressing past this 1st hurdle.