By Connor Steel
DORCHESTER FC U23s sealed a league and cup double on Wednesday night as they beat Gosport Borough U23s five-one in a comfortable display at the Avenue Stadium, adding the Challenge Cup to their Hampshire Combination & Development League Under-23 Division West trophy won recently as they pipped local rivals Weymouth U23s to the crown following the finale of the 2021-22 campaign.
On a dry but overcast night in Dorset, Gosport started the better in a cagey first ten minutes and got their reward on the quarter hour; Ethan Fox’s floated free-kick sending the visitors into a merited lead. But the pivotal moment arrived six minutes later as Dorchester won a penalty as Ruben Smith broke through down the left side after a fine through ball and was fouled by Steven Cully at the back.
The Gosport defender was sent off for his clumsy last man challenge with Ben Symes converting the penalty to level the scores, whilst Dorchester made it 2-1 just before half time as the ball fell kindly to Kriss Radivojsa who made no mistake in firing past Ryan Rochester. The Gosport keeper then kept his side in contention with two brilliant saves as the referee blew for half time shortly afterwards.
Pressure told three minutes after the restart as Sam Herrington was flattened in a dangerous area for a free-kick, with Marcus Smith stepping up and sending a low shot under the wall into the bottom corner; beating Rochester at his near post for 3-1. Substitutions then followed for both sides so the young players could get some experience of a cup final, which signalled a slight lull as the hosts twice went close through Jack Steele and Herrington in quick succession as play entered its final stages.
It was 4-1 with seven minutes left to play as half time substitute Josh Phillips stormed down the right at pace and played a dangerous ball into the corridor of uncertainty, finding Ash Guppy six yards out who connected brilliantly with a flicked backheel past Rochester into the corner. And Dorchester capped a five star display as they made it five one in the last three minutes despite Dylan Holgate’s effort brushing the side-netting down the other end; Phillips controlling a fine diagonal pass before sliding home.
As Dorchester’s youngsters celebrated a much deserved trophy double, manager Brian Churchill told the Dorset Echo: “I’m chuffed to bits. At the start of the season we set that group of lads an objective to get to a cup final and be first or second in the league. They’ve surpassed that by winning the league and that cup comfortably against a Gosport side that have only lost three times all season – fantastic result.”.
And even in defeat Gosport co-manager Pat Suraci was proud as he told the club website: “We are hugely proud of all of the lads. They gave everything they had last night. When reflecting on the game it’s a shame because in the first 20 minutes we were in complete control of the game in all aspects. We were organized, compact, composed and a threat going forward, and we deservedly went 1- 0 up but after the red card and subsequent penalty to make it 1-1 of course the momentum swung in their favour.”
“It’s hard to fault the lads after that, when they are playing 65 minutes with 10 men on a big pitch. Credit to Dorchester they took advantage of it and were worthy winners in the end. Looking back on the season it’s been a real success, we finished runners up in the league to an experience Sholing team, got ourselves into the final of the league cup and had a number of the lads featuring for the first team.”
PICTURED BY GRAHAM HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY: Dorchester players celebrate one of their five goals versus Gosport on Wednesday as they won the U23 league and cup double.