By Connor Steel
Clinical finishes including doubles from Bradley Lethbridge and Mason Walsh sealed the win for Shaun Gale’s side after two pre-season draws between the sides. But the Royals will be pleased with their efforts against an on-form team from two divisions above.
Although Portchester started well in possession, a mistake saw Gosport take an early lead after just four minutes with their first attack. Walsh was able to intercept a loose pass in the home defence as he raced through on goal and expertly rounded the goalkeeper Steven Mowthorpe, before simply tapping into the unguarded net to give his side a dream start. Moments later, Billie Busari found space 25 yards out but his effort drifted harmlessly wide of the Portchester goal into the crowd.
Gosport continued their dominance in possession and looked content to show their quality by controlling the game, which led to a number of half chances before the match hit its 20-minute mark. Recent signing Seok-Jae Lee fired wide under pressure from Sam Pearce, while Ryan Woodford rose highest but headed over a corner on 18 minutes before Walsh was denied by Mowthorpe as he tried a similar move.
Gosport’s inability to score a second goal allowed Portchester back into the game as they created a series of great chances around the half-hour mark. Steve Ramsey’s effort was blocked and recycled with Archie-Lee Greenough heading over a pinpoint cross from Harvey Aston at close range, a good move that met with both applause and groans from the home fans. Then Ramsey was put through on goal by quick interplay, cutting the ball back to Ridge whose effort from an angle whistled past the top right corner.
Portchester’s best chance came on 39 minutes when a ball into the channel found George Barker in space, the winger cutting inside and firing towards goal in the penalty area. But much to everyone’s disbelief, an outstanding block from Woodford diverted this effort over the crossbar from the edge of his own six-yard block, a tackle that would have won any game of football. Buoyed by this scare, the visitors went on the attack and had an effort by Matt Paterson tipped over the bar after a great diving stop seconds before the referee blew for the interval.
Portchester created a chance during the break as Leo King replaced Barker, the winger shooting straight at Gosport goalkeeper Ellis Grant who gathered easily on 47 minutes. Sixty seconds later, an effort by Conor Bailey drifted harmlessly over from an angle, but in truth it was a slow start for both sides as they struggled to recapture the momentum of the first half. This all changed, however, as Lee was played into space, finding Busari down the side of the penalty area. He crossed into the box to find the unmarked Walsh who slotted home into the corner and doubled Gosport’s lead.
In response, Portchester created arguably their best chance on the hour mark, incisive interplay on the right finding Zak Sharp. His run saw him advance forward and fire towards goal, only for the effort to be blocked at source by Grant using his legs. Gosport then brought Bradley Lethbridge onto the pitch and the young striker made an immediate impact, scoring a third goal on 64 minutes. Jake Wright smashed the ball off the post with the rebound falling kindly to the feet of the attacker, who buried it into the net from close range.
Five minutes later, Gosport made it 4-0 as they broke from a Portchester corner. A threaded pass to Lethbridge allowed the striker to fire expertly past Mowthorpe’s dive, the Portchester goalkeeper beaten for power and accuracy despite getting a touch on the ball. With a result arguably decided, it seemed to reduce the intensity of proceedings despite efforts by Lethbridge and Portchester’s Finn Bello from a corner, the game entering the final 10 minutes with substitutes disrupting the play.
Gosport thought they had made it 5-0 on 81 minutes when Lethbridge converted a pass from the right, but the offside flag halted celebrations in their tracks and the striker was denied his hat trick. In the 85th minute, Wright turned his marker and fired towards the top corner with his left foot, but the effort struck the crossbar with Mowthorpe beaten for power. Portchester further came close to a consolation goal in the final opportunity of the match. Ashton fired over with an ambitious shot from 20 yards, Portchester fans saying that had their strikers taken their chances the outcome could have been so different.
The Royals will be hoping for a similar performance against Shaftesbury when they meet their on-form Wiltshire-based opponents on Saturday afternoon; the game at the On-Site Group Stadium kicking off at 3pm. Dave Carter’s men will then play another knockout tie as they travel to New Milton in the Wessex League Cup quarter finals, before hosting Cowes Sport in their first match of December. Gosport will host Swindon Supermarine at Privett Park in the Southern League Premier on Saturday afternoon, before Wimborne visit the town for their rearranged fixture from September. Dave Carter’s men are hoping to reignite their play off push following a stuttering week in which they lost to Taunton Town and only managed a draw against strugglers Kings Langley.
PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Local rivals face up in pre-season draw at Privett Park back in July 2021