Royals halted by last-gasp leveller

By Connor Steel

AFC PORTCHESTER concluded their brilliant pre-season preparations on Tuesday night with an impressive result against local rivals Gosport Borough, drawing 2-2 against their Southern League opponents at the On-Site Group Stadium in front of a respectable crowd. And a draw was arguably the right result from a credible home display as they turned the game around to lead two-one with minutes left to play, only for Borough to score a last-minute equaliser to seal a 6-4 aggregate win in the Steve Woods & Ray Stainton Memorial Cup.

On a dry evening Gosport started the better with their young squad, mainly due to other commitments of first team players, playing some good football; Harvey Rew driving over the crossbar with a long-range shot and Trialist B heading wide after 15 minutes. Down the other end Portchester saw their own openings as Brett Pitman headed straight at Patrick O’ Flaherty in the away goal, whilst right back Tyler Giddings flashed wide a cross in the corridor of uncertainty just before the half hour that was mostly shared between the 2 teams.

It was however the visitors who dominated possession and they took the lead on 36 minutes through Kyle Williams, the tricky winger placing an effort past Steve Mowthorpe into the corner for one-nil. But this lead didn’t last long as the Royals equalised just before half time, a counter attack from a set piece landing at the feet of Pitman just inside the area. An audacious lobbed effort immediately followed with the backtracking Gosport goalkeeper able to prevent the ball looping into the corner, gaining loud applause from all sides.

Half time soon followed with Portchester taking the lead within four minutes after the break, the ball being worked into the path of Ashton Leigh who curled home a powerful drive into the far corner for a two-one lead. This goal seemed to signal a change of momentum as Felipe Barcelos drove wide and Ryan Wilkins fired into the side netting before the hour mark in a quest for the third goal; away manager Shaun Gale making changes throughout his team as he tried a different formation with more focus on wing-play on both sides.

Fresh legs saw Gosport regain control in the final twenty minutes with an increase in possession, although they were unable to fully turn this into chances as they laboured against organised defending led by Connor Bailey. But just as the home fans were dreaming of a third win against Southern League opposition in pre-season, Gosport equalised with two minutes left to play. It came from a recycled free kick ball that found the lurking Harrison Brooks, the young attacker showing composure beyond his years to score the last chance.

This credible result completes pre-season preparations for Portchester who also drew one-all with Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday afternoon, the test proving valuable as Dave Carter prepares for the 1st league game versus Cowes Sports next Tuesday night (August 2) at home. For Gosport they have one further game to play before starting the Southern League campaign, travelling away to Cams Alders to face Fareham on Saturday afternoon. This game will start at 2pm following the Creeksiders’ two-all draw with Littlehampton.

PICTURED BY DANIEL HASWELL: Four great goals scored in entertaining two-all draw on Tuesday night.