Gosport Borough boss Alex Pike admitted some of his fringe players failed to cover themselves in glory as the hosts suffered a shock Hampshire Senior Cup exit on penalties at the hands of lower-league rivals AFC Portchester.
The National League South outfit looked to be on their way to an expected victory over their Wessex League premier division opponents when they raced into a 2-0 first-half lead through Lee Wort’s early goal and an Adam Wilde penalty.
But an immediate response from the Royals in the shape of Joe Griggs’ fine header saw them enter the interval with the deficit halved.
And Alex Baldacchino ensured the drama of a Privett Park penalty shootout when he levelled in injury-time for Graham Rix’s side.
With 10 successive spot-kicks converted, it was Borough who flinched first when youngster Adam Brice missed in sudden death – only for Portchester’s Garry Moody to also fail from 12 yards.
The Royals needed no second invitation though when Jamie White missed for Gosport with the scores level at 6-6, as Josh Warren confidently fired home to seal a memorable victory for Rix’s side.
‘It was poor decision making from half of the players that made it go wrong,’ said Pike.
‘Tonight was an opportunity to give players game time and some did not prove themselves and do a great performance.’
Borough fielded a much-changed starting XI, with all five substitutes regulars in Pike’s first team.
Gosport’s boss instead elected to give his bench warmers a start, which meant a return to the action for skipper Sam Pearce making his first start this season following a knee injury.
And the hosts got off to the best possible start when they took an early lead through front man Wort’s composed finish over Royals stopper Lloyd Thomas after just eight minutes.
Despite their advantage, Borough seemed to welcome the away side on to them with Baldacchino and Louis Castles calling Ashmore into action.
For all of the visitors’ endeavour, though, it was Gosport who doubled their lead six minutes before the break.
Warren felled Perry Ryan in the box and Wilde coolly converted the penalty into the bottom left-hand corner.
But within a minute, disorientated Borough saw their two-goal lead halved when Griggs climbed highest to head a cross past a helpless Ashmore and give Rix’s underdogs hope at the break.
The first incident of note in the second period saw Ashmore collide with an opponent and receive lengthy treatment before deciding to play through the pain for his side.
The returning Pearce then came close to sealing the win, when his eye-catching effort skimmed the crossbar.
That was to be his last action, though, as the defender left the field with a suspected hamstring injury.
The Royals sensed their chance and duly forced a shootout when the lively Baldacchino stunned the home crowd, sliding the ball past a despairing Ashmore in injury-time.
That signalled the way for spot-kicks, with the underdogs keeping their cool under pressure to emerge victorious, thanks to Warren’s decisive strike.
One ray of light for beaten Borough came in the form of defender Brice’s display, despite his penalty miss.
‘Adam Brice was a shining star and I see him getting in the starting XI,’ added Pike.
GOSPORT BOROUGH: Ashmore, Wheeler, Cuthbertson, Ryan, Brice, Pearce, Dunford, Ramsey, Wort, White, Wilde. Subs: Bennett, Carter, Poate, Woodford, Williams
AFC PORTCHESTER: Thomas, Evans, Moody, Thurgood, Warren, Hardy, Castles, Bye, Parish, Baldachinno, Griggs.Subs: Smart, Stone, Brooks, Sweeney, Whittingham.