By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH will open their long-awaited 2022-23 campaign with a home clash against Merthyr Town on August 6 as fixtures were released by the Southern League on Friday lunchtime (midday); the first match at Privett Park starting a long season of league games as Shaun Gale’s team look to gain promotion return to the National League South division after four years of progress despite two null and voided years.
The opener will end a rollercoaster summer journey for the Welsh side, who were initially relegated from the Southern League after a poor season plagued by injuries and financial issues stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. But they were reinstated after the demise of Walton Casuals due to their own unrecoverable financial issues in June, which signalled a small reshuffle of league allocations both nationally and locally.
Hoping to replicate their 5-0 victory over Merthyr last November, the team travel to Weston-super-Mare for their first away game seven days later as they look to copy another seaside win from August. Further games against Swindon Submarine (H), Chesham (A), Plymouth Parkway (H) and Winchester City (A) round off a busy first month of August, before the weekend of September 3 sees the start of any FA Cup campaign.
Similar to 2021 Borough will mark Remembrance Weekend with a home match versus Bracknell Town on November 12, whilst their last pre-Christmas encounter at Privett Park is scheduled to be against Weston-super-Mare on December 17. Boxing Day will see an away game against Hartley Wintney, whilst a home tie with Winchester City is due to open the New Year on January 2 to round out a tough looking festive period.
Other intriguing games for Borough fans include an away trip to rivals Salisbury on January 21 following a five win last season, which came after tensions boiled over in a brawl at Privett Park between the two sides in a FA Trophy encounter. Home matches versus the Met Police, Hanwell Town and Truro City will also draw huge crowds; these games routinely spread out through February and March alongside many away trips.
April Fools Day (01/04) will see Gosport entertain Hendon at Privett Park, whilst two games over Easter will see the team travel to Tiverton Town on April 8 before hosting Hartley Wintney two days later. Their last away trip of the season will see them visit Bracknell Town before concluding at home versus Beaconsfield Town on April 22, with play-offs potentially following afterwards with the season set to finish by mid-May next year.
Midweek home matches will take place on Wednesday nights to avoid clashes with Portsmouth games at Fratton Park in League One, the chairman Iain McInnes trying to maintain great attendances on average seen throughout last campaign. For example over 800 people watched a narrow defeat versus the Met Police last October and Easter Monday saw a crowd of nearly 700 fans for the 1-0 win over Salisbury.
Games will kick off at 3pm on Saturdays and 7:45pm in midweek unless otherwise stated, with all fixtures subject to change pending on weather or cup competitions. It is believed that the team will open their FA Trophy campaign on October 1, with local cups set to slot into vacant slots across the eight month season.
The fixture announcement continues preparations for the new campaign that started two weeks ago with pre-season friendlies; Gosport winning 6-0 against Lymington Town and losing 3-1 to Bognor Regis in two home games this week. A two legged affair versus AFC Portchester (home and away) and an away trip to Fareham on July 30 will round out a tough period, following big encounters with Portsmouth and Eastleigh.
Gosport supporters can see the full list of upcoming 22-23 league / cup fixtures here, whilst also being able to examine the full schedule of Southern League Premier clubs via: https://southern-football-league.co.uk/.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Privett Park awaits opening game of league season versus Merthyr Town.