GOSPORT BOROUGH secured their progress to the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round in a brilliant cup tie versus Plymouth Parkway at Privett Park, with a last-minute scorcher from Nicky Dembele sealing victory on Saturday afternoon.
But it was far from comfortable as they were made to endure several moments of anxiety and struggled to break down their opponents who saw Callum Hall dismissed, before the 90th minute wonder strike saw Borough home and sent the home crowd into raptures with a 2-1 win in the ‘Battle of the Ports’ match.
In front of over 550 supporters, Borough were forced into an early change as Bradley Tarbuck went down in front of the Harry Mizen Stand with Pat Suraci replacing the winger down the left. With this interruption Parkway threatened to take advantage as Harrison Davis’ free kick was blocked by a jumping wall, while Jack Crago was put through on goal to be denied by Albert White who took the ball off the striker’s feet. Callum Rose and Aaron Bentley then had shots blocked at source by Gosport defenders, with the visitors dominating the opening 20 minutes.
Moments after Boro’ had their first shot with the dangerous Nicky Dembele firing over from 25 yards, Plymouth Parkway saw their best chance of the game on 24 minutes. A corner was cleared into the path of right back Davis, whose low ball found Jack Crago who fired over the bar with a volley from eight yards out. It was a chance that Parkway were rueing two minutes later as Borough took the lead on arguably their first dangerous foray forward.
White’s long ball down the middle bounced over a static defence and found Dan Wooden through on goal, with the striker tripped as he turned back to take his shot. The referee awarded a penalty, without many appeals, which was smashed into the top right corner by debutant HWFC loanee Theo Widdrington to give Borough the lead against the run of play – much to the delight of the home supporters around Privett Park.
Ten minutes later, Parkway almost equalised as Crago was fouled down the right by Elliot Wheeler, who was then booked. The set piece was taken by River Allen, whose low effort narrowly missed the far post as it simply went the wrong side of the woodwork. Despite the apparent dominance by the visitors, Gosport had two brilliant chances to double their lead in a matter of seconds just before the break. Good work saw Widdrington denied by away goalkeeper Kyle Moore before the rebound was recycled and fired over the crossbar from Suraci as the referee blew for the interval.
The second half began in dramatic fashion as the visitors were reduced to 10 men after 48 minutes. A foul down the left by Calum Hall resulted in some scuffling and backchat to the referee, who showed the Parkway player a straight red, although nobody could really determine what it was for. But it didn’t stop the visitors from equalising seven minutes later when a long ball was allowed to bounce around the Gosport box, with William Palfrey slamming home into the corner on the volley. It should have been 2-1 to the visitors on the hour mark as Bath looked to capitalise on a goalkeeping error, but the covering Harvey Rew clearing off the goalline and the ball was kicked away to safety.
From this scare Gosport nearly made it 2-1 down the other end as Joe Lea fired over the crossbar via a deflection following great work by Suraci down the wing. Widdrington’ s free kick was sent wide by away keeper Moore for a corner that ultimately came to nothing, whilst Lea dragged his angled effort wide when well placed. Down the other end Parkway looked dangerous on the break as Matthew Andrew shot wide from range and Ryan Lane flashed an effort across goal as the game remained in the balance.
With both sides making changes and fresh legs on the pitch, it was Gosport that appeared in control with the extra man. The home side however were guilty of crossing too deep and struggled to break down a brilliant Parkway defence, although a glorious opportunity came in the 84th minute as the crowd prepared to celebrate. Suraci broke free down the wing and showed great trickery to get to the by-line, with his cross diverted onto the crossbar by Wooden from seven yards under pressure. As the rebound was blocked by the legs of Moore, it looked like a draw was likely as Gosport staff and supporters began discussing a long midweek trip to Cornwall for a potential replay.
But similarly to the Poole game three weeks ago, the hosts never gave up in front of their home crowd and sent the stadium into raptures with another late winner. Space down both flanks saw the ball reach Nicky Dembele who turned his marker and shot towards goal from 25 yards out, his effort finding the top right corner via the despairing gloves of Moore who did get a touch. Overjoyed at the late winner the youngster ran 60 yards to celebrate in front of his manager and coaching staff; which added extra time to the three minutes of added moments. But Gosport held on and secured their place in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup.
They will find out their opponents on Monday (1pm), marking the start of a busy week of action at Privett Park. Winchester City are scheduled to visit Gosport in the Southern League Challenge Cup on Wednesday evening, so fans should expect more cup magic with a potentially mixed side. Borough will then hope to build on their winning league home run next Saturday as they host Yate Town FC in the Southern Premier with a 3pm kick-off.