GOSPORT BOROUGH exited the Southern League Cup at the earliest opportunity in a midweek match versus Winchester City on Wednesday, with a second half comeback from the visitors enough to secure a shock victory and end the hosts’ winning streak seen since August 17.
It also means Shawn Gale’s team have failed to reach the second round of this knockout tournament for the first time since 2018, losing 5-1 to Sholing two years ago and no localised tournaments held last campaign due to Covid-19.
Although Gosport started well in possession, It was Winchester who saw the first shot as Liam Callaghan’s freee kick found Simbarashe Mlambo whose effort was blockded at source after five minutes. Moments later good interplay down the right saw Adam Grange fire wide for the visitors as both sides made an attacking start to proceedings.
Borough had their first chance on 14 minutes when a cross from Jack Wright was met by Bradley Lethbridge, whose header was tipped over the bar from Winchester keeper Ryan Pryce. But there was nothing the shot-stopper could do when the hosts took the lead after 22 minutes, with Theo Lewis converting a great move down the left by side-footing home into the corner.
In response the visitors immediately went down the other end as Greg Peel found space on the right wing, but his pass across to Grange was cut out and gathered by Ellis Grant. Winchester were then dealt an injury blow after 31 minutes as a misjudged tackle saw Daniel Bradshaw replaced by Thomas Vincent, with Matthew Casey booked for the fowl.
Winchester then had a spell of possession around the final third but lacked the decisive pass to break through Gosport, who had two further chances before the break. A low angled effort by Bouwe Bosma was saved by the away keeper before Lethbridge’s free kick was inches wide from 25 yards out, with the referee blowing for the interval and ending an even first half with everything to play for.
Both sides had an early chance in the second half as Lewis headed wide for Gosport, whilst Peel shot harmlessly over the bar from 20 yards when well placed. However it was Winchester who looked the most dangerous as Joe Hayward hit the crossbar with a looping effort, but they were not reueing their missed opportunities as they equalised on 57 minutes. Home keeper Grant denied efforts from Connall Bark and Mlambo with an amazing double save, but the third shot by Callaghan was placed into an open net despite the best efforts of the Gosport defence.
Shawn Gale made two substitutes with Nicky Dembele and Mamada Balde Djaura came off the bench for inspiration, which nearly made an immediate impact as they linked up with the latter’s low effort cleared off the line by Alex Hayne and the rebound from Adam Biss was blocked at source. Moments later Wright’s cross was headed wide by Ryan Woodward and Dembele fired straight at the away keeper from seven yards with a tame finish.
Winchester had the next chance and ultimately scored their winner in the process as good play saw the ball played to substitute Lex Vaughan. Without defensive pressure and space the midfielder fired into the bottom left corner with a brilliant first-time finish on 77 minutes, sparking huge celebrations amongst the away contintent. From this point Gosport were dominant but ultimately didn’t take their chances with Djuara and Dembele going close in the final 10 minutes, while Boro’ were denied two penalties by the referee despite appeals. The end of the game was confirmed following five minutes of stoppage time in which Gosport played a barage of balls into the box, but were denied by a brilliant defensive display.
Privett Park was fairly quiet as fans mostly stayed away due to wet conditions and an England match on telly, but the approximately 125 supporters will be happy with the show of football despite Borough’s defeat. Truthfully, the hosts have eyes on better competitions and will be hoping to win another three league points versus Yate Town on Saturday. They will then play Swindon Supermarine away in midweek (September 14) before travelling to Yate, with the second encounter being the FA Cup 2nd Round Qualifying following Monday’s draw.