Gosport draw in crazy eight goal thriller
In a game that had everything, Gosport recovered from 4-2 down to snatch a point in unforgettable, epic 4-4 draw at Whitehawk.
There was only one word to sum up this crazy contest which saw Boro' and Whitehawk share eight goals, one red card, one goalkeeping injury and a centre back saving a penalty - unforgettable.
After a relatively sober first half which ended 1-1 with Gosport having produced an assured display, the second saw an explosion of drama, six goals, numerous talking points and a fair smattering of controversy too.
The constant factor for Gosport throughout this epic encounter was a "never say die" attitude which saw them salvage a point despite trailing 4-2 with time running out.
Ben Wright put them ahead early on before the home side equalised midway through the first half with a sublime strike from Mike West.
After the interval, the drama began and kept on coming.
Abdulla put Whitehawk in front only for Warren Bentley to even things up with a typically clinical finish. The home side then went 4-2 ahead only for Boro' the claw their way back into the game courtesy of a superb goal from Wright and Chris Flood.
By that time, Gosport keeper Lewis Watch had been withdrawn after being knocked unconscious whilst conceding the home side's fourth goal. With no substitute goalkeeper on the bench, Brett Poate volunteered to put on the gloves and shortly afterwards, duly saved a hotly disputed penalty.
Inspired by the save, Gosport then went on to fight back and stun the home side and the lively Hawks supporters by equalising at the death and snatching a point leaving both sides scratching their heads as to what they had just been part of.
In the mix was Glen Southam's sending off. The vastly experienced midfielder accrued his second yellow card to leave the hosts to finish the game with ten men.
Boro' had opted to re-employ the same formation they had used in last weekend's FA Trophy success at Hungerford, though T.J Cuthbertson missed out by serving a one match ban for five cautions. That meant Mike Carter deputised at right back whilst Josh Carmichael was also absent after a bout of illness.
Gosport began well. With a carefully plotted and well executed tactical plan they gave Whitehawk plenty to think about in the early stages. That came to fruition after just six minutes as Flood put Wright through and the Basingstoke based striker finished coolly despite Whitehawk feeling he was offside.
Gosport bossed the next 10-15 minutes with Warren Bentley missing a good one-on-one chance against keeper Flitney, firing wide when odds on to make it two.
But gradually the home side worked their way back into the game. Lewis Watch produced yet more confident goalkeeping to keep them out with some top drawer saves to deny Southam and the ever-dangerous Danny Mills. But Watch was powerless to stop West's well struck shot from distance which screamed past him and in to bring The Hawks level just after the half hour mark.
Watch continued to impress and became a major source of frustration for Mills as he denied the lively striker with two more saves as the first half drew to a close. Southam was also denied once again by the confident 18-year-old.
The second half began with a bang. Abdulla fired The Hawks ahead for the first time as they used home conditions to full advantage with Boro' looking slightly uncomfortable at keeping their hosts at bay as they played down the slope.
Abdulla raced clear with Gosport claiming offside this time but he made no mistake with Watch powerless to deny him.
But this Gosport team is one growing in stature and confidence and also in doggedness. Warren Bentley supplied a trademark clinical finish to make it 2-2 much to the joy of the visiting entourage. Ben Wright's defence splitting pass had given the former Winchester striker the time and space to do the rest.
But that was nothing to what would transpire later. From that point on it seemed that their afternoon was beginning to unravel. Whitehawk made it 3-2 with Glen Southam's long range effort sailing past Watch and then four with Paul Reid's header from a corner seemingly pushing the game away from Gosport.
In the melee Gosport keeper Watch had been knocked out and lay unconscious in the back of his own net leaving Brett Poate urgently shouting for medical attention. After several minutes, he was helped to his feet with Gosport being assisted by Whitehawk physio Denise McClean. He groggily walked off leaving Gosport with no goalkeeper as there had been no substitute on the bench. The home support showed good sportsmanship and sympathy chanting "Gosport keeper we hope you're alright" as he left the field.
Brett Poate volunteered to take over between the posts and put on an assured display. Adam Brice came on for Watch and replaced Poate in the centre of defence. Poate's first major test would come shortly afterwards.
But not before Wright made it 4-3 with a classy finish, curling the ball around Flitney to give Gosport a lifeline and real hope of salvaging a result.
Then Poate did his bit to help. Boro' conceded a dubious penalty when Oastler was deemed to have felled substitute Osborn but felt the striker went down a little too easily.
But Whitehawk couldn't take advantage. Caretaker/Player Assistant Manager and former Eastleigh player Ben Strevens chose to put his penalty to Poate's right but the stand in keeper guessed correctly and made a superb save to keep his team in with a shout.
As the game entered a nerve jangling finale, further momentum swung Gosport's way as Glen Southam was dismissed for his second bookable offence, leaving the visitors with the numerical advantage.
With the game deep in stoppage time, Chris Flood delivered a dramatic equaliser capitalising on some defensive confusion to slot into an empty net and spark wild celebrations amongst the visitors.
They had persevered, hung in there and pulled a result out of the hat. They deserved it too. They might not have managed to achieve their maiden win against the Brighton side but it was by far their best performance against them.
To gain a point from a 4-2 deficit took courage determination and spirit. This game will be long remembered by those who were there to see it. One of those where they might just say, "I was there".