Wooden goal seals Gosport derby victory

By Connor Steel

GOSPORT BOROUGH ended their home league campaign in successful fashion as they completed a double over local rivals Salisbury City, beating their opponents 1-0 at Privett Park on Easter Monday. But under sunny skies it was a poor encounter not living up to the pre-match hype and large attendance of 609 fans following feisty affairs between the two earlier this season; instead lacking intensity in what felt like a typical end-of-year match with neither side having nothing to fight for at this late stage.

Gosport started well despite an effort from Salisbury’s Abdulai Baggie that was tipped away for a corner by home keeper Fynn Talley; creating their first chance in the nine minute as Billie Busari’s low angled effort was blocked at source down the left. Moments later saw another opening for the hosts as Harry Kavanagh’s cross was headed straight at away keeper Patrick O’Flaherty, whilst Elliot Wheeler’s drive drifted wide before the quarter hour mark in an attacking start for both sides on a beautiful-looking surface.

An injury stoppage to Sam Ashton gave the managers a chance to rally their troops, Gosport creating the next chance on 19 minutes as Busari’s run was smothered by O’Flaherty with the rebound by Harvey Rew blocked by Charlie Davis for a corner. It however didn’t take long for Borough to open the scoring as Bradley Tarbuck drove down the right and played an inviting cross into the area; Dan Wooden rising highest to nod inside the right corner despite the best efforts of O’Flaherty on 26 minutes.

Shaun Gale’s side nearly doubled their advantage on the half hour mark as interplay down the right released Kavanagh, whose cut back was deflected kindly into the feet of Rew and the midfielder sliced it over the crossbar from 12 yards. In response Sam Ashton dragged wide from an angle following good footwork by Devon Arnold whilst Salisbury also had a series of set pieces that came to nothing; proceedings drifting to the half time interval without further incident or stoppage time for the earlier injury.

Buoyed by Steve Claridge’s team talk at the break, Salisbury restarted with a spell of neat and controlled possession; which almost got its reward on 51 minutes as Daniel Fitchett set up Darren Mullings in space down the left, the midfielder heading straight at Talley when a volley seemed the better option. The visitors went even closer eight minutes later when Antonio Diaz threaded through a static home defence to find the lurking Ashton; the striker’s composed finish ruled out for offside by the assistant.

Gosport replaced Busari with Luke Hallett on the hour mark as the hosts calmed the game down following that let-off; another injury stoppage for Salisbury resulting in Joshua Wakefield being replaced by Alfie Hawke in the visitors’ only change of the afternoon. This halted the away momentum as Tarbuck seemed to get more space down the right, beating two defenders before his low shot was blocked by the legs of the sliding Samuel Roberts as he advanced towards the edge of the penalty area.

Salisbury’s last notable opportunity to equalise came on 79 minutes when Hawkes linked up with Fitchett, the latter’s pin-roller shot on the turn safely gathered by Talley between the sticks. From this point Gosport looked the likelier to get that second goal that never came as Kavanagh’s miscued cross hit the roof of the net whilst Hallett smashed harmlessly over in the 88th minute; referee Gary Parsons blowing the final whistle to seal a much-welcomed three points and clean sheet for Gosport.

The victory means that Gosport remain ninth in the Southern League Premier with just one match left to play this weekend, holding off Poole Town in the race for the highest position possible following other results on Monday. Shaun Gale’s side will conclude their league campaign with a trip to Yate Town on Saturday as they hope to avenge a two-nil defeat to the Bluebirds back in Autumn 2021, before playing in the Portsmouth Senior Cup Final against Moneyfields at the PMC Stadium, Baffins on April 27.

PICTURED BY TOM PHILLIPS: Gosport winger controls the ball around a Salisbury player during flat second half of derby encounter that failed to live up to pre-match hype and excitement at Privett Park.