New era begins with Bracknell defeat

By Connor Steel

GOSPORT BOROUGH succumbed to a fourth successive Southern League defeat as they hosted Bracknell Town on Saturday afternoon, losing four-nil against the Robins in sunny conditions at Privett Park. It was yet another disappointing result in Ben Kneller’s first official game in charge following Shaun Gale’s departure as manager earlier this week; the scoreline arguably flattering the visitors who took a deserved 1st half lead and weathered a home storm upon the second, before scoring three clinical attacks in the last 19 minutes of play.

After an impeccable Remembrance ceremony it was the visitors who started better as they sent 2 direct balls into the area, only troubling the defence when Darryl Sanders played through Jordan Espirit who saw his low effort saved by Gosport goalkeeper Patrick O’Flaherty. Down the other end Danny Hollands made spaces for a shot that was deflected out before Dan Wooden tried an acrobatic overhead kick with great options around him after a corner fell kindly into his path; the opening fifteen minutes remaining goalless after the even start.

Bracknell steadily took control of possession despite Rory Williams and Billie Busari linking up quickly on the left wing only for the latter’s delivery to miss two home attackers at the back post; Michel Pratt slicing straight at O’Flaherty with an ambitious shot on 23 minutes. George Knight then went close with a headed effort from a free kick before the visitors finally made one of these chances count; neat passing play resulting in Espirit’s deep cross being met by Sanders who simply nodded home from six yards out for the narrow 1-0 advantage.

Kyal Williams attempted to launch an immediate response as he broke at speed down the right, but his cross across goal was overhit and lashed harmlessly out of play; Busari performing a similar move on the opposite flank as frustration built up around the ground. This only rose with some questionable decisions from referee Thomas Kelly who denied appeals after a triple foul and then booked Rory Williams for a slide tackle despite arguably winning the ball, Ashley Lodge thankfully firing the set piece wide in the final action before half time.

The hosts came out racing upon the restart and should have levelled within seventy seconds as the ball was worked into Wooden, who advanced towards goal but saw his effort simply drift wide of the far post. Another chance from the attacker was denied by the Bracknell goalkeeper Michael Eacot whilst being alert to further catch Harvey Jewitt-White’s volleyed effort on fifty six minutes; saving his best stop until the hour mark as he tipped Wooden’s header onto the far post before himself colliding with the woodwork and required treatment.

These squandered opportunities were punished as Ben Kneller made attacking substitutions with 20 minutes left on the clock; Magnus Abisogun cutting inside and sliding his low effort from 12 yards into the bottom right corner leaving O’Flaherty with little space to react. Gosport were stunned by this goal but never gave up their attacking efforts, seeing Busari hit the crossbar with his sweetly-hit first time strike from Abdulai Bell-Baggie’s sideways pass; Bracknell responding with a number of substitutions to protect the hard fought two-goal lead.

But instead these changes sparked them forward and they made it three-nil after 88 minutes; Espirit sealing a deserved reward for his attacking efforts when he advanced into the penalty area at pace and dropped his shoulder before drilling home. And salt was rubbed into Gosport’s wounds deep into added time when a well worked set piece move was nodded home at the back post by centre back Anthony Cheshire; ending a poor afternoon for the hosts who will feel that the final four-nil result was harsh on them given their performances.

Borough’s eleventh defeat from seventeen means they are fifth from bottom in the Southern League and are now winless since beating North Leigh back in early October; a worrying streak of form for all their loyal fans in attendance at Privett Park on Saturday. But thankfully they don’t have long to wait until they play Chesham United in the league next weekend (19/11), which will be preceded by a home match against Locks Heath on Wednesday; this Portsmouth Senior Cup tie originally postponed due to a waterlogged surface ten days ago.

PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Wooden wins first header in the penalty area but it sadly does not fall kindly to Gosport player in penalty box as Bracknell produce clinical performance to get win on Saturday afternoon.