Gosport Borough will host Bemerton Heath Harlequins in the Russell Cotes Cup final on May 2nd, moving a step closer to retaining the trophy by seeing off a spirited AFC Portchester.
Boro' eased to victory at the Blanchard Wells Stadium with two second half strikes after a tepid first half which the home side had dominated. Ben Wright set them on the way to victory and their progression was confirmed by Alfie Lis' first senior goal for the club shortly afterwards.
Portchester had the better of the first period but failed to make the most of the chances they created. Gosport then grew in stature and confidence in the second to pull clear and provide some cheer at a time when good news has been in short supply.
However, their progression to the final wasn't completely trouble-free. Tony Lee limped off with an ankle injury midway through the second half shortly after Josh Carmichael had also been withdrawn after aggravating an old injury. Debutant Dagan Holfold was another injury victim.
It was a changed Boro' team taking to the pitch at Wicor Rec. Competition rules meant several players were automatically ineligible including Joe Lea, Nick Bignall and Charlie Wassmer, whilst am injury accounted for Aaron Dawson and Ben Harding was rested. Ollie Bailey was also absent. The Development Squad provided the substitutes, Connor May, Alfie Lis, Ellis Grant and Scott Walters.
This ensured a debut for Academy player Dagan Holfold while there were starts for Pat Suraci, Duran Martin and Sam Lanahan in a strong Boro' squad. The team was overseen by Danny Thompson and Tony Stares in the absence of Alex Pike who missed the game due to family illness.
It was a heavy pitch and Boro' didnt look comfortable on it in the early stages which Portchester dominated. The Wessex League club, fielding ex-Boro players Nathan Kirby, Simon Stone and Steve Ramsey made a strong start.
Lewis Edwards was involved in the majority of their chances, including a shot that hit the inside of Nick Jordan's far post and came out and another which the Boro' keeper did well to save. Gosport offered very little in the opening 45 minutes but what ever Messrs Thompson and Stares said during the interval clearly worked.
The visitors offered an immediate improvement in the second half and were ahead when Ben Wright made room for a shot which found its way in despite home keeper Cameron Scott getting a hand to it.
The goal relaxed the visitors who then had the upper hand despite the home side continuing to have chances. All three Gosport substitutions were injury influenced. Josh Carmichael tweaked a pre-existing injury and was replaced by Connor May as a precaution, whist Holfold was also forced off, replaced by Scott Walters.
But the biggest concern was Tony Lee. The young striker turned his ankle and went down heavily and his night was over. Lee will be a doubt for the vital league game at Margate on Saturday. He limped off and on went Alfie Lis (pictured) who would go on and enjoy a champagne moment not long afterwards.
Lis flicked the ball over Scott, who got a hand to it but couldn't keep it out and effectively wrap up the game for Gosport. Portchester weren't quite done yet as Josh Warren's header narrowly cleared the bar but it was to be Gosport's night.
They now have the chance to retain the trophy they won last season when they welcome Salisbury based Bemerton Heath Harlequins to the Aerial Direct Stadium on Tuesday May 2nd in the final.
Whilst the main focus remains the club's fight for survival in the Vanarama National South, their progress in this competition is a welcome distraction and a useful confidence builder for the vital matches still to come.
AFC PORTCHESTER: Scott, Evans, Stone, Edwards (Lamb 53), Kirby, Warren, Mason, Ramsey, Todd, Baldachinno & Easter (Tuppen 61). Subs not used: Poynter, Everitt & Muknersee.
GOSPORT BOROUGH: Jordan, Lanahan, Holfold (Walters 50), Martin, Brice, Sanders, Suraci, Oastler, Lee (Lis 68), Wright & Carmichael (May 56). Sub not used: Grant.
REFEREE: Aaron Moody (Chandlers Ford)
Updated 08:18 - 8 Mar 2017 by Site Manager