Down! Stoppage time equaliser relegates Gosport
A 2-2 draw combined with wins for Whitehawk and Truro conspired to send Boro' down with a last gasp equaliser shattering all hopes.
Going into five minutes stoppage time at Concord Rangers, Borough held a hard fought 2-1 lead - an advantage that was all set to take their quest for survival until the final game of the season next week.
After going a goal down early in the second half, Boro' fought back magnificently to overturn the deficit courtesy of a brace from Tony Lee and led as time added on was called at the Aspect Arena.
All looked good as a win would keep Gosport two points behind both Whitehawk and Truro City going into what was increasingly looking like a climactic one game shoot out against Whitehawk. A game that Gosport would have to win to stay in the division.
But Alex Pike and his management team hadn't counted on both their relegation rivals picking up vital home wins on the penultimate weekend. Full time whistles had been blown in both Brighton and Cornwall as Gosport's game entered stoppage time but the three points Gosport currently had a claim on would keep the status quo.
Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.
James White's long range strike deceived the luckless substitute goalkeeper Lewis Watch who could only push the ferocious effort on into his own net. Suddenly the pendulum had swung the other way and Gosport were four points adrift, out of time and out of luck. A 2-2 draw wasn't enough and Gosport Borough suffered their first relegation since 1992.
Full time saw the Boro' players scattered across the pitch some lying down, some heads in hands as their fate was sealed. The emotions of the visiting entourage were very evident. It will be either Southern or Ryman League Football for Gosport Borough next season.
Rewind two hours and the day had started with optimism. Boro' named a largely settled side for the trip to the Essex coast. They knew a win was required as they couldn't really expect any favours from either Poole Town or Hemel Hempstead who were playing Whitehawk and Truro City respectively.
The only player missing was Duran Martin who was unavailable but otherwise Boro' were unchanged. The games opening exchanges on a bright sunny afternoon saw a lively start from both sides but subsequently very few chances.
A goalless first half was a solid foundation for Gosport to build on. They did however have to change things early on as Ben Harding limped off injured after a 12th minute incident that saw him injured along with Nick Jordan, who recovered and continued despite substitute keeper Lewis Watch warming up.
Declan McCarthy was introduced as part of an enforced reshuffle and went on to have an excellent game in midfield showing maturity beyond his years. But the injury problems didn't stop there as Jordan continued to struggle and a second incident in first half stoppage time ended his afternoon and Watch was called on for the second half.
The interval situation slightly favoured Gosport in that they were a few minutes behind the two other games so they had the advantage of knowing what they needed to do.
With both Truro and Whitehawk already ahead, Boro' were relegated as things stood and knew they needed a goal to change things.
Sadly they fell behind early in the second half with an excellent cross from the lively Collins misjudged by Gosport skipper Joe Oastler whose back header deceived Watch and dropped into the net. Boro' were now five points adrift and falling through the trap door.
Cue the comeback. Tony Lee had two good chances before he did eventually equalise with a calm, calculated finish. But better was to follow as just minutes later a fierce angled effort screamed past Concord keeper Vose and in, sparking wild celebrations amongst the Gosport players and supporters whilst Lee was booked in the melee for taking his shirt off.
But the injury curse struck again with Ollie Bailey coming on for Sam Lanahan as Boro's problems began to mount. The Green shirted visitors stuck to their task resolutely, as five minutes stoppage time was called. The performance shown was full of character and determination as the goal of taking the fight to the final day with a fourth and precious away win of the season had almost been achieved.
Then came the sickening blow that shattered any dreams and hopes of survival. With the games at Whitehawk and Truro now finished, Boro' knew all they had to do was stay ahead to take things to a "cup final" encounter with Whitehawk next Saturday.
But in the 93rd minute, James White let fly with a powerful long range effort straight at Watch who was caught off guard by the shot and could only help it on its way into the net. Concord had equalised and dealt the hammer blow. Gosport were down.
Full time saw some extraordinary and heartbreaking scenes as the realisation sunk in that the game was up. Players collapsed to the floor, the travelling supporters applauded whilst showing the obvious pain, while there were stunned looks.
The final game of the season at home to Whitehawk is now meaningless with Gosport down and the Brighton side safe. A very sad end to an extremely turbulent season for everyone at the Aerial Direct Stadium.