How young guns made Gosport Borough proud again after challenging week for the club

In the end, it wasn't the desired result - but every single Gosport Borough teenager could take great pride from what they gave on the pitch.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 11:24 am
Gosport under-18s striker Dylan Holgate on the ball at Reading City. Picture: Tom Phillips

Each and everyone of the club's under-18s prospects showed maturity beyond their years, yet their historic FA Youth Cup run came to a cruel end at the first round proper stage.

And all in a week where the spotlight had been thrust on Gosport for non-football reasons. As it was, the record-breaking run was ended by Reading City player Jenyo Balogun's second-half penalty as Boro's young guns were beaten 1-0 and missed out on a place in the second round proper - to the first and only goal they conceded in 360 minutes of football in the competition this season.

But it was a performance which warranted so much more - and that could have been the case had it not been for two outstanding saves from the Cityzens goalkeeper Archie Walker from Finlay Walsh-Smith and Will Ayre in the closing stages of a hard-fought tie.

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Gosport teenager Joao Ferreira, left, gets a nudge in the back from a Reading City player. Picture: Tom Phillips

In a fiery tie, Boro had both defender Ryan Woodford and manager Shaun Gale shown straight red cards while Salisbury's Darren Mullings was dismissed as a mass altercation broke out.

Management and players from both teams were involved with the cup clash paused for nearly 10 minutes as things turned ugly.

So, what better time for the under-18s to step in and show just how bright of a future they might have at Privett Park - or potentially higher up the football pyramid given some of the performances – and what the club is really about.

Captain Harry Yoxall. Callum Mann and Finlay Walsh-Smith were absolutely outstanding as a back three utilised by joint managers Pat Suraci and Joe Lea to nullify Reading City's numerous attacking threats.

Striker Dylan Holgate, leading the line on his own, never stopped running and was always an option in behind for his team-mates.

But those are just four of 13 players utilised on a chilly Berkshire night who came away with so much credit.

A word on joint managers Suraci and Lea, also first-team players and heading up the Boro centre of excellence, who are now into their third season in charge of the under-18s.

It's clear to see their coaching methods coming out and being expressed by this current under-18 crop with bags of potential.

The joint management duo have just a few hours a week to work with this group of teenagers, so for them to come through three rounds in the FA Youth Cup and secure the club's spot in the first round for the first time is testament to all involved.

And solely on the Reading City display, ventures into the FA Youth Cup first round proper - potentially even beyond - could become common place should the quality from this season’s run continue to shine through.