By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH crashed out of the FA Cup at its 2nd qualifying round as they travelled west to North Somerset on Wednesday evening, losing two-one to Paulton Rovers in a closely fought replay at Fish4Pools Stadium as they missed out on a promising away trip to higher league opposition. And the victory was richly deserved by the hosts who were simply too clinical in attacking areas for Shaun Gale’s team, never looking back as they gained a two-nil lead before holding on for a memorable ‘cupset’ despite the away consolation.
Kicking off at a slightly earlier time of 7:30pm it was unsurprising that the visitors started out on the front foot after Saturday’s frustration, Bradley Tarbuck seeing the first chance as he fired inches wide of the far post on seven minutes and then saw his dangerous cross down the right side gathered by Paulton goalkeeper Aaron Sainsbury in the air moments later. Down the other end a cross from Martin Lenihan was met by Kyle Tooze whose clever flick ran away from the onrushing Dan Dempsey and was collected by the diving away keeper.
Committed possession by the visitors helped them exert more control following an even first 15 minutes with Abdulai Bell-Baggie looking dangerous, winning a free-kick that drew a shot on target from Harvey Bradbury that was saved at point blank range. Harry Kavanagh and Tarbuck then whipped some pacey crosses across the face of goal which were cleared by an organised Paulton defence led by centre-back Nuno Felix, helping to create a platform to threaten on the counter attack that saw them take the lead after twenty-three minutes.
It came as winger Will Harvey advanced through midfield and set up Tooze to drive down the right wing with possession, the striker’s cross finding David O’Hare with a deep cross-shot that was turned past keeper Pat O’Flaherty into the net. The rest of the first half was quiet and void of clear-cut chances despite Dan Wooden seeing a shot saved by Sainsbury alongside a succession of Gosport corners that came to nothing; Bradbury being booked for a frustrated tackle as Paulton reached the half time interval unscathed with an one-nil lead.
Tooze almost doubled this advantage within 3 minutes of the restart as he fired wide a low shot following his great run at the Gosport defence, who denied same striker when he again looked dangerous moments later. An attack minded cup match was halted temporally on 54 minutes as Finlay Walsh-Smith accidently collided with his goalkeeper in a tussle with Tooze with both away players needing treatment for head injuries; Shaun Gale forced into two substitutions off the bench as he used the opportunity to freshen up and regroup again.
Bell-Baggie went close to levelling after the hour mark as his side regained control of the midfield areas and overall control of proceedings, first hitting a snap shot just over the crossbar before curling an effort just wide from the edge of the penalty area. But after a lull due to home substitutes it was two-nil to Paulton as Tooze chased after a ball and won the foot race, setting up Dempsey in space and his partner rifled home to spark joyous celebrations with thirteen minutes left on the clock as the away contingent in the stands stood silent.
With nothing to lose Gosport threw everything forward and they did pull 1 back after eighty-four minutes as a cross caused panic within the Paulton backline and a small scramble landed at the right foot of Wooden, who slotted the ball into the bottom corner for two-one. Rory Williams sent his curling free kick from 25 yards over the crossbar and Wooden drew another smart save following a great attacking move down the right, but the visitors couldn’t force any extra time as the hosts survived a long nervy period of additional time to progress.
Following this jubilant success Paulton will travel east to Hampton & Richmond Borough in the 3rd qualifying round of England’s famous knockout competition, hoping for another cupset against higher National League South opposition on October 1. Meanwhile Gosport will return to Southern League action with three matches in 7 days starting with a trip to Truro City on Saturday afternoon in Plymouth, before hosting Poole Town next Wednesday night (28/09) and finishing a busy week with North Leigh visiting Privett Park on October 1 (Sat).
PICTURED BY PAULTON ROVERS FC: Two sides fight for a header in FA Cup replay on Wednesday night, with the hosts coming out on top against Gosport to set up big Hampton & Richmond next round encounter.