Devon stalemate for ten-men Gosport

By Connor Steel

GOSPORT BOROUGH sealed a hard-fought point away from home as they drew two apiece with Devon-based Tiverton Town on Saturday afternoon in overcast and chilly conditions. Goals from Harry Kavanagh and Dan Wooden allowed Shawn Gale’s men to take the lead either side of half time, but they were pegged back with two home equalisers and were also forced to defend for 30 minutes following a red card to Mike Carter on the hour mark.

After a precautionary pitch inspection the game began in dry skies and it was a cagey side for both sides as they cancelled each other end; a moment of unity seeing a minutes’ applause for Arthur Labinjo-Hughes after making headlines. But Gosport were dominating possession and looked to be adapting well to a heavy surface, creating the first opening after ten minutes as Elliott Wheeler hit the bar with a powerful left-footed effort from twenty yards.

Tiverton’s opening chance came in the fourteenth minute as Jordan Lam cut inside and fired straight at Albert White, before Gary Warren and Alfie Pond went close for the home side. Down the other end Gosport created their next opportunity on 22 minutes as Harvey Rew saw a free-kick saved by home keeper Lewis Williams down low. A series of free-kicks and set pieces for Tiverton were dealt with comfortably by the visiting defence as the game hit 30 minutes.

Gosport took the lead after 35 minutes as Kavanagh latched onto a pass down the right wing and unleashed a fierce shot straight into the top corner with pace; sparking joy amongst the away fans and staff. But seven minutes later Tiverton were level as they won a penalty; White spilling a cross and fouling Dan Hayfield in his attempt to reprieve himself. Up stepped Lewis Morrison who coolly fired the spot-kick into the corner to equalise with the final notable action before the break.

Following a second penalty appeal for the home side on 49 minutes, Gosport did retake the lead sixty seconds later as they won a free kick to the right. The deep and inswinging delivery was flicked on by Theo Lewis into the path of Wooden, who took the ball on the turn to make no mistake with a low shot inside William’s post. Luke Hallett then headed over the crossbar from a corner and Joshua Huggins dragged a shot wide under pressure from home defenders.

But the game changed with 30 minutes left to play when Carter went into a fifty-50 tackle with the returning home striker Owen Howe, misjudging his tackle and was shown a straight red card for a high foot. And with the majority of supporters behind them following a series of substitutions for both sides, Tiverton levelled with nineteen minutes left to play. An inswinging cross was punched by White into the path of Hayfield who volleyed brilliantly into the bottom corner to equalise again.

As the game continued Tiverton continued their momentum and looked the likelier to score a winner late on; celebrations erupted when Matt White headed home a cross in the 77th minute. But Gosport were offered a reprieve as the officials disallowed the goal for offside and the visitors never looked back, limiting the home side to few notable openings in the final ten as. This was helped with Tiverton lacking creativity in good positions, the game ending after three minutes of stoppage time.

Other results including a defeat for Hayes & Yeading mean Gosport have climbed up to third place in the Southern League Premier after twenty games, with this game proving that one point can change everything in league football. Attention however must turn to knockout football as AFC Totton visit Privett Park on Wednesday evening before Gosport host Dorchester Town in the league again next weekend. Away trips to Hendon and Wimborne Town finalise the festive run-up before a busy New Year.

PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Gosport celebrate taking the lead in Devon through Harry Kavanagh