Alex Pike enthusiastically praised his players after a vastly improved Gosport Borough performance against Maidenhead United despite his team's fifth consecutive league defeat.
The new look Boro' squad showed clear signs of gelling with a committed, battling display, in which the players worked hard for each other and made Alan Devonshire's Magpies work hard for the points.
Now that is not to say it was faultless. Two defensive errors accounted for both goals, scored by the ever-dangerous Dave Tarpey - the league's top goalscorer. There were flaws but inspired by the impressive Aaron Dawson (pictured), numerous players stepped up to the plate and turned in some encouraging individual displays.
Tamille Roache made an encouraging debut while Sam Lanahan also caught the eye with a battling display, crowned with a goal-line clearance in the second half to keep the score at 2-0.
Pike was impressed afterwards. He said: “Anyone could see there were some green shoots of a recovery sprouting out there today. The players showed they wanted to play for Gosport and be proud of that badge.
“We’ll never be judged on our season in games against teams such as Maidenhead but rather when we play against teams around us. If we play like that against those, we’ll get the 26 points we think we need to stay up,” he concluded.
Gosport were forced into several changes as they faced up to the daunting challenge that League leaders, Maidenhead United posed. Boro', on an awful run of form had lost Rowan Vine, Ben Wright and Ramone Rose to injury whilst Ben Harding could only make the bench. They joined long term absentee Josh Carmichael in the queue for the treatment room.
Therefore, Tamille Roach was handed a debut and Ollie Bailey was recalled to partner Tony Lee upfront.
Maidenhead got the game underway on a sunny afternoon and in a noisy atmosphere. Gosport made a lively start and more than held their own in the first ten minutes.
Mulley was upended by Lea on the edge of the area but the free kick was easily cleared. Inman went close for the visitors with a header from a Peters cross. Maidenhead, six points clear at the top going into this game, gradually asserted their authority on this game.
Dan Thomas made a top drawer save against the ever-dangerous Tarpey who burst through and was odds on score after 16 minutes. But Thomas made a perfectly judged save, swiping the ball away from the league’s top scorer as he attempted to flick the ball around the goalkeeper and finish.
Gosport looked calm, cohesive and composed and were battling well. Tony Lee’s doggedness opened space for the former Eastleigh striker to get a shot in from a tight angle but saw his effort blocked.
Maidenhead finally broke through after 20 minutes. Tarpey’s persistence paid off as he pressured Oastler into a mistake. He nicked the ball off the Gosport captain and used the space and time he had to slot the ball past Thomas and into the far corner.
Tarpey had a chance to make it two after a Mulley pass sent him clear once more but this time Thomas denied him.
Boro' continued to work hard without managing to overly trouble their visitors. Roach almost equalised with a rising effort from outside the area which Pentney tipped over. From Aaron Dawson’s corner, Adam Brice headed over.
Maidenhead continued to knock on Boro’s door on a regular basis as the first half began to draw to a close but the home side continued to show great courage and work hard. Maidenhead doubled their lead on the stroke of half time as Tarpey converted a cross from Pritchard, lashing home at the near post.
The second half began with Tamille Roache setting up Bailey with an exquisite cross which the diminutive striker turned over the bar with a difficult finish. Gosport continued to graft and the impressive Roache was substituted and replaced by Wedlake.
Tarpey was being afforded far too much space and Lanahan was unlucky to see a full stretch clearance fall straight to him, giving the dangerous striker a real chance to extend his team's lead but his effort just cleared Thomas’ bar.
Boro’s substitutions briefly galvanised the team. A free kick driven in low caused the visitors a few anxious moments but at the other end Sam Lanahan rescued his team with a goal-line clearance from Barratt’s effort with Thomas beaten.
However Gosport continued to play well and produce their best performance for several weeks. Dawson and Lea registered shots on goal as Boro' enthused their supporters with a performance full of character.
The game fell into a lull as it entered its final 20 minutes. Gosport pressed without causing too many problems. Alan Devonshire’s way of injecting new life into his team was to make a double change with Hammond and Smith on for Upward and Mulley.
Keiran Forbes had a golden chance to close the game out, with a mistake allowing him space to run clear, but his shot went wide ending up in Thomas’ side netting. Gosport were fortunate not to concede a third as substitute Jordan Cox saw his header ruled out for offside deep into stoppage time.
Gosport now prepare for a massive clash at Truro City next weekend and will make the long trip to Cornwall in a better frame of mind and far more confidence.
"If we play that way against Truro and the other teams around us, then relegation will not be an issue," Pike said.
GOSPORT (4-4-2): Thomas, Lanahan, Bird, Lea, Oastler, Brice, Dawson, Whittingham (Martin 58), Lee, Bailey (Morris 81) & Roache (Wedlake 55). SUBS NOT USED: Walters & Harding.
MAIDENHEAD (4-1-3-2): Pentney, Peters, Barratt (Cox 83), Upward (Smith 78), Massey, Inman, Tarpey, Forbes, Marks, Mulley (Hammond 78), & Pritchard. SUB NOT USED: Wiltshire.
REFEREE: Ian Fissenden.
CAUTIONS: Brice, Dawson (Gosport) Massey (Maidenhead).
Updated 10:49 - 31 Jan 2017 by Site Manager