Stortford success ensures survival is still within reach
Boro' recorded a 2-0 win at Bishops Stortford to keep them within reach of safety with their first away victory in six months.
It was a decisive day in the Vanarama National South relegation battle. Gosport Borough travelled to Bishops Stortford knowing only a win would do - and they delivered.
Joe Lea and Tony Lee's second half strikes ensured there would be no miserable journey home for the travelling entourage for the first time since October and piled the pressure on Whitehawk to gain a result from their game against St Albans on Saturday.
The result also ensured that their hosts were relegated after a miserable season on the Hertfordshire-Essex border. Margate were also condemned to the drop on a busy day of action across the division but whilst the visitors had sympathy for their hosts, they could only concentrate on their own fight for survival.
That fight now extends into Bank Holiday Monday's home game against Oxford City - another game from which Boro' must gain a full reward if they are to maintain realistic hopes of avoiding the drop into the Ryman or Southern League.
There was a merry go round of players coming in and out of the side for Alex Pike who had to contend with several injuries. Tony Lee was fit despite being injured in the defeat at Welling the previous weekend and Josh Carmichael also continued his rehabilitation. Aaron Dawson also returned.
However, out were Ben Wright and Tom Bird whilst Pat Suraci and Ollie Bailey were only fit enough to take a place on the bench. Therefore, an unusual formation was deployed with Ben Wright playing at centre back whilst Sam Lanahan was given a more attacking role. Duran Martin was also handed a starting berth. Player-coach Danny Thompson featured as a substitute.
Gosport asked the all the right questions in the first half on a chilly blustery Good Friday afternoon. They certainly had their chances. Tony Lee's angled effort from outside the area glanced the bar, whilst Josh Carmichael hit the post. Joe Oastler's header only needed a touch at the far post to ensure an opening goal.
Stortford's only notable moments came through the lively Evans Kouassi but other than an early Nick Jordan save to deny Kouassi with his legs, Boro' were rarely troubled. They needed a goal to settle them down and the visiting entourage all hoped it would arrive in the second half.
It did, amongst controversial circumstances. Sam Lanahan created the opening for Joe Lea to tuck a loose ball into an unguarded net whilst the home side appealed for a foul on keeper Harry Voss.
The celebrations were quickly muted as the assistant referee on the far side had initially disallowed the goal only for referee Aji Ajibola to overturn his colleagues' decision after a short debate and award it. Finally, after an hour, Gosport had their goal.
Chances appeared for both sides as the game entered its final phase but the contest was settled when Tony Lee's lob from a wide angle deceived Voss who could only help the ball into the net.
Gosport had got the win they so badly needed. The home side's misery was compounded by the dismissal of Luke Callander who was red carded by referee Ajibola for his part in an incident involving Gosport skipper Oastler who was also booked.
There were cameos for Suraci and debutant Declan McCarthy in the closing minutes but the game drifted to its end and Bishops Stortford were relegated.
That fate, for the time being, has been kept at arms length for Gosport. They move to within a point of safety and Whitehawk who play St Albans on Saturday. Boro' will hope the Saints can do them a favour in Brighton and ensure that both teams go into Monday's round of matches a single point apart.
The job is far from done for Alex Pike's team. They know they must follow up this success with another against an inconsistent Oxford City on Bank Holiday. If they do, then they can keep the trap door temporarily locked and take the fight into next weekend's final away match at Concord Rangers. If they don't then that trap door will once again creak ajar.
Gosport Borough's fate and future is both in and out of their hands. The final three matches they must play will be tense, decisive and agony to watch for everyone concerned. But they are still in with a shout of maintaining their National South status for another season.