It’s a while since Gosport Borough last played at home. So long in fact, that since the visit of Nuneaton in the FA Trophy on the 4th December much has happened in the intervening period; one year has become another, the baliffs have arrived and gone home empty handed (the only items at the ground being a photocopier and a metal gazebo) and the roof of the clubhouse has been ripped off by a savage wind. Though the roof is reportedly covered by insurance, the interior which was destroyed was not. Whether this latter issue has anything to do with the deal struck to rename Privett Park the Gosport Dry Linings Stadium is purely guesswork. With all this adversity it’s hard not to have a soft spot for the club bravely soldiering on, like a ship being pitched by a heavy sea. And the sea nearby is sure to be heavy tonight as the icy January wind races across the pitch with the grit-teeth fervour of a striker bearing down on a hat-trick.
Perhaps it’s this inclement weather which has led to only a trickle of supporters turning-out for a long-awaited glimpse of their team, but more likely it’s the fact that the game is Hampshire Senior Cup tie. Had this been the FA Cup – a tournament which has not yet lost all its prestige – the tie would be billed as the biggest game in Boroughs history. It would have been talked about for weeks and the club would be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a pay-day which would fix both the hole in the roof and the holes in their balance sheet, but as it’s the Hampshire Senior Cup it’s little more than a pain in the posterior.
In the programme notes tannoy announcer James Fox neatly sums up the dilemma facing clubs who like Gosport – currently contesting three separate cup competitions – face acute pressure on their limited resources:
I think I’d have mixed feelings about progressing tonight. Pleased, yes, that we would be in our first Hampshire Cup semi final since 2005, but concerned that that would give us another game to squeeze in somewhere. The County Cup final is being played at Fratton Park this season which would be an experience for the many Pompey supporters among us, but I am concerned that further progress in cup competitions will seriously affect our Skrill South survival bid which is priority one.
While with the smaller clubs have a plausible excuse for wanting to exit the tournament at the first available opportunity, the big clubs just seem to be indifferent. Both Southampton and Portsmouth have continued a long-standing policy of shunning the competition. Bournemouth however, have recently returned to the tournament entering a development side last season.
This first attempt saw the side reach the final, where they suffered a 3-2 shock defeat to Alresford Town. Could this year be their year? The signs were good. Bournemouth are yet to concede a goal in the tournament, reaching the quarter final stage courtesy of a 5-0 against Lymington Town and before that a 3-0 win against Blackfield and Langley. Certainly there was enough sand on the pitch to make the Bournemouth players feel reasonably at home, though Confrence South Borough would undoubtedly prove a tougher proposition than the Wessex League clubs they’d swept aside..
Although Bournemouth made a few promising early moves it was Gosport who took control of the game. The Gosport attack led by grizzled goalscoring veterans Andy Forbes and Tim Sills, 34 and 35 respectively, and aided by the pacy runs of Mike Gosney, a former Hampshire Cup winner with AFC Totton, causing plenty of alarm amongst the youthful Bournemouth defenders.
The first goal came on 17 minutes when Jack Barton lashed in a shot, whilst Sills headed in a cross for an easy second. Jordan Holmes the Bournemouth ‘keeper impressed making a number of good saves to keep his side within touching distance of the game. At the other end though Bournemouth barely looked like providing any danger, save for their number 10 whose runs past several Gosport players were only ever brought to an end at the expense of a free kick, but with passes routinely going awry almost every Bournemouth attack fizzled out to nothing.
On such a cold evening Gareth Barfoot in the Gosport goal was probably wishing for a bit more action to warm his limbs, but had to wait until the very end when called on to make a brilliant stop from a one-on-one, shortly followed by a comfortable save from a tame free kick which was to be the final act of the game.
2-0 to Gosport.
After the Game Gosport Manager Alex Pike would tell Portsmouth News that “Who we meet in the semi-finals doesn’t really matter as we’re determined to do what we can to get ourselves into the final.”
Someone, at least, is up for the cup.