Gosport frustrated by Hendon stalemate

By Connor Steel

GOSPORT BOROUGH FC were again frustrated at Privett Park on Saturday afternoon as they were held to an one-all stalemate versus Hendon in a cagey Southern League Premier encounter; which further dented their play-off ambitions with just seven games left to play in the 2021-22 campaign. This was despite the hosts having the majority of possession throughout the ninety minutes but were unable to convert this into a victory; arguably guilty of being sloppy in attacking areas and they eventually fell short of their vital second goal that would have given them two extra points.

The hosts started the brighter in a cagey start with Billie Busari and Nick Dembele proving dangerous with pace running at the backline, Samuel Corcoran seeing yellow for a late tackle before right-back Harry Kavanagh fired his free kick straight at Hendon goalkeeper Ethan Wady who claimed easily at head-height. Down the other end Frank Keita was found through on goal from a chipped place and slotted home past Gosport goalkeeper Fynn Talley, but the calm finish was disallowed for an offside in a quiet opening twenty minutes in overcast but very chilly conditions.

The hosts continued to struggle against an organised Hendon defence, loose passes and good blocks denying any further chances for the Gosport attackers; only Busari firing wide after cutting inside on twenty-seven minutes whilst a good move was ended by an offside flag as Kavanagh was found free on the right. And the visitors punished the home side just after the half hour mark as an incisive pass found Liam Brooks in space, the striker’s rising shot hanging in the air before dropping inside the top right corner past Talley’s despairing dive and silencing the home fans who thought it had gone wide.

Hendon nearly doubled their lead on 37 minutes as Luca Allinson saw his low effort blocked with the rebound falling to Brooks, who drilled wide from twelve yards as Gosport fans held their breath. This scare seemed to boost the home side in the final minutes before half time as Carter dragged wide an ambitious effort from twenty yards and Dan Wooden launched a shot from distance onto the top of the net; before Dembele found space down the wing and fired high over the bar in stoppage time as the referee blew for the interval.

Buoyed by Shaun Gale’s half time words, Gosport came out firing after the break and nearly levelled on 48 minutes as a deep free kick was headed against his own post by Maurice Nugent; whilst Elliot Wheeler fired over from the resulting corner. Sadly this momentum didn’t last as proceedings went into the first half pattern of good possession but no attacking outputs, whilst Hendon nearly doubled their advantage on 56 minutes after Talley denied a shot from Brooks; the rebound falling kindly to an offside Hamza Semakula who fired off the far post before the linesman belatedly raised his flag.

Substitutions for both teams signalled a lull with neither side really creating any notable goalmouth action either side of the hour; yellow cards shown to Matthew Hall and Joe White for Hendon as the frustration built with niggly fouls committed by both teams. But after Keita had dragged a shot wide following good build-up play, Gosport finally got their leveller on seventy-seven minutes as AJ Harris-Sealey’s cross wasn’t cleared away by the home defence; falling to Rew who made no mistake in firing across Wady who was left standing rooted to the spot as the ball hit the net.

Suddenly Privett Park came alive with Gosport looking the most likely to seal a winner as Harris-Sealy forced Wady into a good save from 25 yards as Casey headed wide from the resulting corner. But the Hendon goalkeeper made an even better save on 83 minutes as Matt Briggs collected an angled pass on his chest, stroking a shot towards the corner only to be denied by Wady’s gloves. And in stoppage time Gosport went even closer as Kavanagh’s cross narrowly missed the long sliding legs of Matt Paterson six yards out with both sides having to settle for a point apiece.

Extending their winless run to four games Gosport now sit sixth in the league standings after 35 matches played, failing to take advantage of other results for Yate and Weston-Super-Mare going their way this weekend. Actions now turn to knockout action as Shaun Gale’s team will host Petersfield Town at Privett Park next Saturday afternoon, hoping to beat their Wessex League Division One opponents and reach the Portsmouth Senior Cup final in the progress. They will then be returning to league action on March 19 against Merthyr away in Wales, before hosting Taunton Town seven days later in a huge play-off encounter.

PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Harvey Rew fires home an equaliser for Gosport as they struggle to break down an organised Hendon, having to settle for a draw that further dents their play-off ambitions.