Report by Connor Steel
Photograph by Tom Phillips Photography
GOSPORT BOROUGH were the victors after two legs of the Ray Stainton & Steve Woods Memorial Competition versus AFC Portchester, beating their local rivals on penalties as 180 minutes couldn’t separate the two sides to lift the shield.
Goalkeeper Ellis Grant was the hero on the night after an entertaining two-all draw at Privett Park, with the game switched from the Crest Finance Stadium at short notice.
Another minute of applause was held before kick-off to remember the two club heroes, with Gosport starting the brighter after the 0-0 stalemate last Saturday and scoring after just 50 seconds.
High pressure up the field led to confusion in the Portchester backline, with the ball falling kindly to Dan Wooden just outside the box. The hotshot striker calmly rounded the Royals’ keeper and slotted home despite the best efforts of Sam Pearce tracking back.
It was nearly two-nil moments later when another nervous mistake from the visiting defence saw the ball fell to Wooden again. Instead of shotting, the attacker squared a low pass into the feet of Bradley Lethridge who fired inches wide of the far post. Gosport were made to rue this glorious chance just moments later as Portchester scored with their first foray forward in the home half of the pitch.
A fine passing move saw the ball reach former Borough dangerman George Barker, who dribbled through several defenders and his effort beat Ellis Grant into the bottom corner with an individual solo goal. It was a finish that gained applause from both sets of fans, perhaps surprised at the intense opening to the game after last weekend’s fairly drab encounter between the exact two sides.
Stunned by the equaliser after such a good start, Gosport immediately went on the attack as Dan Wooden hit the crossbar with an effort that brushed the hands of the Portchester goalkeeper.
However the home side did regain the lead on 12 minutes when a corner by Rory Williams was missed by the keeper and Bradley Lethridge rose highest at the back post to score a powerful header into the corner.
Gosport with an advantage saw a spell of possession and further set pieces as the game quieted down slightly after an intense opening spell. This didn’t stop a brilliant opportunity for Joe Lea as he collected the ball from Dan Wooden, but the defender was denied by a wonderful save as he passed his man down the right side on 26 minutes.
As the match crossed the half-hour mark Portchester capitalised on a home lull of intensity as they equalised with seven minutes remaining until half time. Dangerous winger Tyler Gibbings ran down the left and found substitute striker Lamin Jatta with a low cross into the corridor of uncertainty, with the attacker toe-poking under the legs of Ellis Grant to equalise yet again. This turned out to the final chance of the first half played in temperatures overcoming 24 degrees in the South’s mini-heatwave.
Gosport came out the better after the interval with Bouwe Bosma picked up the ball in midfield and advanced towards goal, but his effort from the edge of the box brushed the post landing just wide of goal on 51 minutes. George Barker then shot waywardly when breaking at pace, whilst Lamin Jatta was unlucky not to convert a cross into the box on the hour mark.
Gosport’s final chance of the game came from former Portsmouth player Harry Kavanagh off the bench who curled an effort over the bar with the Portchester keeper beaten for pace on sixty-eight minutes. In all fairness the second half was a cagey and quiet period of football compared to the first, with heat leading to many stoppages for cramp at this early stage of pre-season training.
Traditional warm-up game substitutions didn’t help the on-off nature of the second half, with the game drifting towards the end with two evenly matched sides not to be separated in goals as it reached a stalemate. After drawing 0-0 in the first leg and no away goal rule, the game went to a penalty shootout as the sun begin to set; a fine atmospheric end to the memorial competition.
It was a great penalty shootout with the first eight spot-kicks brilliantly taken by both sets of players; sending the keepers the wrong way for the majority with composure and nerveless effort. With scores level at four penalties apiece and now into sudden death, Portchester’s Lamin Jatta’s effort was saved down low by Gosport keeper Ellis Grant sparking cheers from the home crowd behind the goal. This gave recent resigning Joshua Huggins the opportunity to win the game, which he did by sending the penalty to the right side of the Portchester keeper.
Presentation of the memorial shield was held after Gosport’s penalty success by family members, with both teams doing their respective legends proud over the course of the two games. They were well matched and the second leg felt like a competitive match despite two leagues between both sides, which is the highest compliment you can give a pre-season friendly.
Gosport’s next game will be away to Horndean on Tuesday night (July 20) before a hard earned rest as their home match versus Portsmouth scheduled for Wednesday has sadly been cancelled. AFC Portchester will host AFC Totton at the Crest Finance stadium next Saturday (July 24) in one of their final pre-season games as they prepare for their first game of the Wessex League against Hamble Club on 03/08.