“Unless there is an extremely dramatic turnaround in form in their final nine matches then relegation seems certain ”
The day began with so much optimism as Gosport Borough as they travelled to Kent feeling confident they could finally end a wretched win less run against Margate - the only team with a worse record.
It ended with a hammer-blow defeat, lots of questions being asked and an impromptu meeting between the travelling Boro' fans and club chairman Mark Hook.
In between there was a game between two struggling sides, without a league win in months, both of whom fancied their chances against the other.
In the end, Margate grabbed the points with two late strikes from substitute Ira Jackson and to twist the knife further Gosport had goalkeeper Nick Jordan (pictured) sent off in the 88th minute for his second yellow card gained for conceding the second penalty of the game. Dean Morgan had earlier missed the first.
Jackson converted the penalty Jordan had conceded with substitute goalkeeper Lewis Watch having no chance. Then, in stoppage time, with Gosport chasing the game, Gate grabbed a second with Boro's defence sliced open as Jackson calmly slotted home at the far post. The goal sparked wild celebrations amongst the home supporters who hadn't seen their team score since New Year's day and win since September.
Boro' now haven't won since October and have scored just three goals in 2017. Unless there is an extremely dramatic turnaround in form in their final nine matches then relegation seems certain.
The day started with hopes of a vital win. Tony Lee shrugged off an ankle injury sustained in the midweek Russell Cotes Cup win at Portchester to start. Josh Carmichael wasn't so lucky and missed the game as did Joe Lea. The injury problems befalling Alex Pike continued to within 15 minutes of kick off as Adam Brice was hurt in the warm up and Ben Wright took his place in the starting eleven.
Tom Bird had successfully appealed his red card at Wealdstone using pictures and video footage, thus sparing him a four match ban and allowing him to start at Hartsdown Park.
The tension was clear to see as the two teams got the game underway. Chances were few and far between until Dos Santos was brought down by Charlie Wassmer, playing against his former club and referee Lloyd Wood had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. In an incredible let off, Dean Morgan proceeded to blast the ball over the bar to gasps of astonishment from around the ground.
Gosport made the most of that by almost taking the lead themselves. Good work from Bignall allowed the on loan striker space and time to get a shot on which Ben Wright turned up onto the underside of the bar from two yards out.
The second half started frenetically, with Margate almost taking the lead within a minute of the restart. Dean Morgan's powerful effort was kept out by a top drawer save from Nick Jordan who then proceeded to keep Gosport in contention with a number of good stops during the afternoon.
Margate had introduced Ira Jackson for Dos Santos as the break and he wasted little time in unsettling the visiting defence. He would later prove to be the difference between the two sides.
Pape Gueye was another effective substitution. His arrival tipped the scales in Margate's favour with another large injection of pace. Boro's best chances of the second half fell to Wright, who fired just over and Bignall who directed his effort too close to Margate keeper Lewis Ward.
This game was headed towards a 0-0 draw but you sensed there might well be a late plot twist one way or the other. It duly came with 90 seconds remaining as Gueye burst clear of the Gosport defence and was brought down by Jordan who was handed his second yellow card and thus a red.
Lewis Watch, recalled from loan at Petersfield, was brought on and his first job was to face Ira Jackson's penalty. But to bring the young goalkeeper on there had to be an outfield sacrifice and the unlucky man was Pat Suraci - substituted just five minutes after coming on for Ben Wright.
Watch had no chance as Jackson's well struck penalty screamed into the roof of the net to spark wild celebrations amongst the Margate players, officials ad supporters. Boro' had no choice now but to throw everything they had at their hosts.
They had six minutes of stoppage time to find a way back. They certainly tried but in so doing left themselves wide open defensively. Watch was left exposed as Gueye set up Jackson superbly to enjoy a far post tap in to an empty net to confirm the result.
Celebrations began around Hartsdown Park whilst most of the Gosport players sank to their knees or held their heads in their hands.
The final whistle marked the beginning of what surely would be a great night in the Hartsdown clubhouse as the hosts celebrated their first win in five months and 20 matches. Their first goals since New Year's Day.
For Gosport, the wretched run goes on. They are without a win since October and have scored just three goals in eight matches.
In extraordinary scenes after the game, the majority of the Gosport players thanked each travelling Gosport supporter individually and shook hands with every one.
But there was more. The supporters had begun to make their displeasure known at recent events and chairman Mark Hook immediately headed over to them and entered into a 20 minute pitch side discussion which ended amicably.
Statistically, Gosport were no worse off for the result. Results elsewhere ensured they remain five points adrift of safety going into their next game against St Albans City next weekend.
But even the most ardent club official or supporter would admit, that unless their is a rapid turnaround in fortune in their final nine matches then Boro's four year stay in the Conference South is coming to an end. It will be the sternest test of character for everyone at the Aerial Direct Stadium.
MARGATE: Ward, Sessegnon, Palmer, Rogers, Azille, Swift, Monakana, Hamilton, Thalassitis (Gueye 71), Morgan ( Fanimo 65) & Dos Santos (Jackson 46). SUBS NOT USED: Akindayini & Adelakun.
GOSPORT: Jordan, Sanders, Bird, Dawson, Wassmer, Wright (Suraci 83) (Watch 88), Oastler, Harding, Bignall, Lee & Masterton. SUBS NOT USED: Lanahan & May.
REFEREE: Lloyd Wood
Updated 07:52 - 13 Mar 2017 by Site Manager