By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH completed a sensational last gasp comeback to record their opening victory of 2023, beating Hayes & Yeading three-two in an outstanding clash from a joyful Privett Park on Saturday afternoon. But the result doesn’t tell the full story across the ninety minutes with the visitors dominating the first half and then keeping a spirited home performance at bay before crumbling within twenty minutes; a late penalty from Bradley Tarbuck and two stoppage time finishes from Dan Wooden confirming the points in stunning fashion.
Under grey skies it was a quieter start with both teams preventing any notable opportunities despite spells of possession and corners; the opening twelve minutes further disrupted by an injury with Tarbuck fit enough to continue. The opening chance fell to Gosport as debutant Gianni Crichlow ran down the right at pace and fed Abdulai Bell-Baggie whose low effort wasn’t enough to threaten visiting keeper Simon Grant; the number one comfortably collecting high crosses into the penalty area alongside an angled backwards header by Wooden.
However Hayes were showing a greater urgency in midfield and this was almost rewarded in the first chance after eighteen minutes; Adam Liddle playing a deep cross that was missed by three home defenders and fell to Moses Emmanuel whose drive was brilliantly saved from Borough goalkeeper Patrick O’Flaherty. Seconds later saw the visitors threaten again when Reece Cole’s delivery was met by Sanmi Odelusi but he somehow screwed his effort wide of the post; the proceedings re-settling into earlier patterns before the half hour mark.
The visitors took a deserved lead after thirty-three minutes when a defensive mistake saw Paul Field’s throw-in reach Liddle whose cross was converted smartly by debutant Jean-Baptise Fischer inside the bottom right corner under pressure. And it was two-nil straight from the kick-off as Cole showed tricky footwork to feed in Liddle at pace; the winger’s pass finding Emmanuel via a faint deflection that the attacker took into his stride, drilling his effort past O’Flaherty into the corner to make it two-nil as the teams reached the half time interval.
Tactical changes within defence gave Gosport a fresh platform for the second period and they nearly made a perfect start when Tarbuck advanced down the right; his low delivery reaching Wooden who had his attempts smothered by the Hayes keeper. The hosts continued to push forward with intent on fifty-three minutes when Tarbuck and Crichlow linked up quickly on the flank; the latter slipping at the crucial moment and sending his shot harmlessly wide of goal before being substituted for Brett Williams as the manager went more attacking.
The hosts were still threatening after the hour mark but looked to be lacking any crucial final pass against the organised Hayes defenders led by captain Charlie Wassmer, who showed his experiences in denying a drive from substitute Brett Williams. Wooden and debutant Noa Boutin provided two half chances but it wasn’t long before Gosport earnt a reward for their efforts as they were awarded a spot-kick after Bell-Baggie was halted by the keeper. Up stepped Tarbuck who calmly side-footed this penalty inside the left side making it two-one.
Substitutions and niggly stoppages looked to take the sting away from Gosport in the final minutes, but home players never gave up and suddenly equalised on 91 minutes when Tarbuck’s initial cross was blocked to his right foot. The winger then floated an outstanding cross to find Wooden who jumped highest to guide into the bottom corner past a standing goalkeeper. And a long ball forward after ninety-four minutes was flicked on by Billie Busari to find Wooden again with the striker making simply no errors as he slashed home a late winner.
Borough’s third league victory under Director of Football Mark Moseley was confirmed seconds later and this three points sees them rise to eighth from bottom in the current standings; earning just twenty-six points from their 25 games so far. They will hope this success can kickstart a faltering season in their bid to move further away from the relegation spots with a busy fortnight ahead; league matches against Salisbury (31/01), Poole (04/02), Weston-super-Mare (08/02) and Truro City (11/02) being scheduled for this upcoming fourteen days.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Bradley Tarbuck prepares to score his second half spot-kick and Borough’s 1st goal against Hayes & Yeading, setting tone for magical stoppage time comeback at raucous Privett Park.