By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH FC suffered their first pre-season defeat of the season in their third game as they hosted Eastleigh FC on Saturday afternoon, easily losing six-one to the National League Premier outfit on a sweltering hot afternoon at Privett Park. All seven goals came in a frantic second half as both teams made multiple substitutions after a goalless first forty-five; with the hosts matching the Spitfires for an hour before ultimately tiring against experienced and physical opposition as temperatures reached twenty-six degrees.
Proceedings started with Eastleigh dominating the possession as Gosport tried to play on the counter attack, a tactic that almost paid off in the seventh minute in the first notable chance. From a corner the ball reached Abdulai Bell-Baggie who carried the ball into space and quickly played a lovely chipped pass to find Brad Tarbuck who saw his shot saved by the outrushing away goalkeeper. In response the Spitfires saw two half chances before the water break as Ryan Hill spun a shot wide and Christian Maghoma headed a free-kick goalwards that was denied by a diving Patrick O’Flaherty as he tipped the ball away to safety for a corner.
The hosts seemed to settle quickly after the stoppage in play with two chances either side of the half hour mark; Tarbuck’s bouncing cross being fired wide on the half volley from Ryan Woodford before Matt Briggs made a darting run inside the area only to see his powerful drive saved by the keeper just minutes later. But it was the Spitfires who created the best chance of the first half as they won a free-kick which was taken by Trialist A, his curling effort hitting the bar and being cleared away to safety as the referee blew for the break.
Eastleigh made an immediate impact upon the restart with their changed eleven as they took the lead on 49 minutes, Danny Whitehall tapping home a low cut-back into the bottom corner after good work down the left. But Gosport equalised minutes later as they won a set piece that ended in a fine jumping header from Ryan Woodford hitting the back of the net to spark loud cheers from a small crowd; a celebration that was silenced as Whitehall slotted home a penalty after Tristan Abrahams was fouled in the box just before the hour mark.
Gosport did have the ball in the net on 66 minutes following good work between Harrison Brooks and Matt Paterson only for the linesman to ruin the celebrations, a decision that led to further substitutions for the home side. And this seemed to affect their momentum with Eastleigh showing their class, making it 3-1 when Abrahams fired home a beauty from twenty yards into the bottom corner. The winger also doubled his tally with ten minutes left as he spun his defender in the area and calmly slotted home between the keeper’s legs.
Abrahams was denied his hat-trick as he was substituted for Lyle Simpson on 86 minutes, the replacement making an immediate impact as he calmly slotted home a fifth past O’Flaherty after being found in space by Whitehall down the right wing. And in the final action of the game Eastleigh added their sixth through Jake Hesketh, who struck a powerful drive past the stranded home keeper; the referee blowing the final whistle shortly afterwards to end the second half fun with friendly handshakes and huge smiles across the two sides.
It could be argued that the score flattered the visitors with many positives alongside negatives for Shaun Gale to consider as Gosport continue their pre-season preparations that is nearing its half-way point. They play two home games against tough local opposition this week, starting with Lymington Town on Wednesday before entertaining Bognor Regis two days later. Borough will then contest AFC Portchester in a two-legged memorial cup competition before rounding off with a local derby versus Fareham at Cams Alders on July 30.
In other pre-season encounters played since Friday evening, AFC Portchester were easily victorious against Folland Sports with a four-one win; Brett Pitman now scoring five goals in three warm ups since joining the Royals. Sholing were 3-0 winners over Dorchester on a lovely afternoon in Dorset whilst Fleetlands earned a credible one-all draw versus Baffins Milton Rovers at the PMC Stadium as the teams all got good run-outs.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Ryan Woodford celebrates his equaliser before Eastleigh run riot in last thirty.