Match Report by Nick DuGard: Saturday, 9 January 2016: National League South: Gosport Borough 1 Wealdstone 1
There was almost as much focus on actually getting a game played as there was to the eventual outcome and result of this eagerly awaited match on the South Coast on Saturday, following Wealdstone’s frustrating period of inactivity due to incessant rain and postponements.
Credit to Gosport’s ground staff to get this Vanarama National League South fixture on but even so, on a heavily sanded pitch, the pudding like conditions in driving rain and swirling winds made the proceedings something of a lottery, and at times farcical. But the conditions shouldn’t hide the fact that this was another sterling performance from Stones whose domination against a top side, particularly in the second half, should have delivered more than just a single point for their efforts.
The match centred around two penalty awards both awarded within four minutes of each incident in the first half and an open goal miss by Jefferson Louis in the second period that perhaps again re-enforces the view that the only real area of significant concern in Gordon Bartlett’s improving side is in the central striking area, particularly should injury befall that position.
Stones are now back in 16th position in a very tight league that shows that they are only three points ahead of the drop zone but they do have 2/3 games in hand over most of their rivals. Mid table security could ‘easily’ be obtained with a couple of wins and this focuses on the absolute need for greater sharpness in the box to find the back of the net.
Wealdstone started with a strong looking line up with the lay-off allowing some injury issues to clear up and Josh Urquhart returning from Australia; the key absences were keeper Jon North who underwent his knee op during the previous week and Wes Parker was serving out a one match suspension.
Borough immediately took the initiative with the wind behind them and Stones were relieved to see an early strike clip the outside of the far post with Sam Howes exposed after Urquhart had been outpaced down the left flank.
But Stones began to get into their rhythm with Johnny Wright showing up well and his effort on four minutes was well held by Nathan Ashmore. Borough’s good movement going forward required Stones defence to be on constant alert with home striker Tony Lee particularly dangerous.
Stones pressure increased but four successive corners couldn’t deliver a breakthrough as Bradley Hudson-Odoi went close who again looked to be their most effective outlet. Odoi’s great run on 24 minutes should have produced a goal when Louis almost closed in but an offside flag intervened.
The balance of the game suddenly changed a few minutes later when Stones lost possession outside their own area and a rapid break by Borough saw West Ham loanee Howes have no real option to get down to a striker bearing through on his goal. Screams for a sending off were ignored by Referee Mr Allison and a yellow card was brandished. Top striker Justin Bennett netted from the spot despite Howes guessing correctly to his left.
But Stones disappointment only lasted 4 minutes as Stones stormed back with clever play from the advancing Jack Smith. Smith was clattered in the area and Stones had their own chance from the penalty spot. Jefferson Louis duly obliged giving Ashmore no chance.
Another super run from Hudson-Odoi brought premature cheers as he hit the side netting.
Conditions worsened considerably in the second period with the rain now pouring down and the wind getting up from the coast but Stones now had the advantage of the tempest at their backs.
Louis tried his luck with a good turn and strike early on but increasing the game was being influenced by the conditions. There was an incredible mix-up in the home defence when the ball hit the bar twice with a defender very fortunate to see his ‘clearing’ header bounce off the woodwork.
Ashmore was seeing his kicks coming back to him boomerang like that kept the 593 crowd amused in the gloom with play really hard going, but both sets of players made the best of the possession they enjoyed to their credit.
Stones were kicking themselves on 71 minutes when they should have taken the lead. Wright headed the ball back across the box and found Louis who just couldn’t get a clean strike away when literally presented with an open goal. The prone Ashmore couldn’t believe his luck when he somehow collected. This was a real let off for Borough who remained a threat on their rare attacks.
Stones had a final chance to grab all the points when substitute Matt Ball collected the ball some thirty yards from goal and his superb strike could only be parried but there no player to follow up.
One concern was a nasty looking injury to Elliot Godfrey who hobbled off the pitch.
Wealdstone:Howes, McCleod-Urquhart, Smith, Hamblin, Cadmore, Godfrey, Wright, Harriott, Louis, Davies, Hudson-Odoi. Subs used: Corcoran, Ball. Not used: Binns, Lucien, Duffy.