Substituted with just over 10 minutes to go Sholing player Kevin Brewster was bestowed with the biggest cheer received by any Sholing player on the night, issued by the row of girls sat behind me who it seems had taken the trip along the Solent at the defenders behest. The girls weren’t that impressed by the experience though; “He made us come here” complained one.
Aside from this selfie-stick wilding bunch (who I gathered probably wouldn’t label themselves fans) there were few Sholing supporters of any kind in evidence. This fact was remarked on by a Gosport fan just before kick off. I gave him several reasons for this the two most compelling being that Sholing weren’t a well supported club, a legacy of being an ex works side “hmmm, they only took 7,000 to Wembley” he mused in concurrence, referring to last years FA Vase final. They other equally compelling reason is that who’d want to parade their red and white striped scarf through Fratton? Other unmentioned reasons were that it was a Monday night, it was cold and the M27 becomes a car park at this time of evening.
Of course there were a few Sholing fans there. These however, only made themselves apparent a few minutes before the end of the game as they scrambled out to make the 21.42 south West Trains service from Fratton station to Sholing.That was my train too, but witnessing the heckling this group endured and the furtive glances of at least one of their number I decided to stay incognito and to remain in my seat for the final whistle and the trophy presentation. Besides I have an aversion to even missing one second of football that I’ve paid to enjoy. If it meant sitting on a cold platform for the best part of an hour then so be it.
There was little real point to this stubbornness, by this point the game had long since been up for plucky Sholing. Despite their being two divisions below Gosport the first half had been remarkably evenly matched, the sides only separated by a rather generous penalty converted by Borough legend Justin ‘Benno’ Bennett and and kept separate through the fingertips of Nathan Ashmore – a goalkeeper dubbed ‘England’s number one’ by the Gosport fans – who stayed alert to divert a stinging drive from the unmarked Alex Sawyer over the bar.
The second half had seen Gosport establish a controlling position when Alex Wilde’s free-kick found the net on 59 minutes. Although there were a few signs of resistance as Sholing’s fighting spirit saw, among other things, a chance at one end as substitute Tobi Adekunle clipped the Gosport post and at the other end a spectacular goal-line clearance the game appeared to be moving to a foregone conclusion. And so it was. Moments after the Sholing fans made their exit Matt Patterson made it 3-0 in injury time, deservedly getting on the score-sheet after an evening tirelessly harrying the Sholing defence. Ironically at this moment I’d looked away to jot down a note about something of no real consequence. As I looked up again I saw the ball trickle into the net.
3-0 to Gosport Borough