Battling Borough hold nerve to have final say
Gosport Borough recovered from a two-goal half-time deficit to book their place in the Russell-Cotes Cup final with an entertaining penalty shoot-out win over Blackfield & Langley.
Blackfield had raced into a 2-0 lead at the interval, leaving favourites Gosport in a precarious position.
But a second-half fightback brought the game to a nailbiting shootout which the hosts won to progress to the final, where they will face AFC Portchester for the third time this season.
Substitute Connor May and Justin Bennett were on target with Bennett also missing another penalty with five minutes left, squandering the chance to win the game for National League South Gosport in regulation time.
But he regained his nerve to net Borough’s third spot kick in the lottery alongside Brett Poate, Sam Pearce, TJ Cuthbertson and Adam Wilde.
Dan Munday was the unfortunate Blackfield player to miss, effectively sending them out of the competition.
Alex Pike made sweeping changes for a tricky test against Wessex League premier division Blackfield, managed by former Borough players Glenn Howes and James Ford.
The early stages of this Russell Cotes Cup semi-final passed without incident with both teams taking time to settle down on a chilly evening.
Perry Ryan’s effort over the bar after 10 minutes was Gosport’s first chance, while Sam Clarke saw his low drive saved by Lewis Watch who pushed it around the post for a corner.
Pearce then headed off the line as Blackfield suddenly threatened.
Moments later, Blackfield were ahead. A free-kick from the right was swung in towards Rico Wilson who nodded the ball past Watch.
The home side rallied and substitute Sam Carter’s 25-yard blockbuster just cleared Lloyd Thomas’ bar.
With the first half almost over the visitors amazingly extended their lead with Sam Lanahan’s deflected effort beating Watch at his near post giving Howes and Ford’s side a decisive half-time advantage.
Gosport, having had a stern talking to at the break, were back in the game with just over an hour gone.
Second-half sub May bundled the ball home and with 10 minutes to play they completed the comeback.
Bennett latched onto Pearce’s through ball and his poacher’s instincts did the rest with a trademark finish leaving Thomas with no chance.
That man Bennett could have won it with five minutes left as Gosport were awarded a penalty.
Incredibly for the second game in succession, Bennett missed his spot-kick, sending it high and wide.
With no futher incident, the tie went to penalties as Gosport held their nerve to set up a final showdown with AFC Portchester.
The Royals secured their place in the Russell-Cotes cup final with an expected 2-0 win over Hampshire League premier division outfit Otterbourne at Wicor Rec.
Ryan Smart put the Royals ahead before Lyall Beazley maintained the home side’s lead with a penalty save.
Curt Robins extended the Royals’ advantage early in the second half.
Gosport Borough: Watch, Cuthbertson, Poate, Brice, Woodford (Higgins 65), Pearce, Ryan, Harding (Carter 20), Brown (May 54), Bennett & Wilde. Subs not used: Kirkwood, Duffin