Gosport Borough 0 Cambridge United 4

Gosport's Nathan Ashmore (keeper)''and ryan bird'Dave Haines (Photo credit should read Picture/s by Dave Haines) PPP-140323-170540002
Gosport's Nathan Ashmore (keeper)''and ryan bird'Dave Haines (Photo credit should read Picture/s by Dave Haines) PPP-140323-170540002
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Gosport have taken a lift from Craig McAllister's leadership. Picture: Keith Woodland

Gosport encouraged ahead of Redditch trip

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It was always going to be a tall order.

But Gosport Borough’s hopes of achieving one more act of heroism fell at the final hurdle as their dreams imploded at Wembley.

Up against a Cambridge United side pushing for promotion back to the Football League, the gulf in class was evident.

Pompey’s on-loan striker Ryan Bird netted the opener before a double from Ryan Donaldson and a Luke Berry penalty put Borough to the sword.

Although they were 1-0 down at the break after Bird’s 38th-minute opener, Alex Pike’s side gave as good as they got in a first-half display that sparked hope of a major upset.

But when United doubled their lead five minutes after the break and made it 3-0 on the hour mark, there was no way back for Borough.

It was then down to them to retain their pride – and a 4-0 scoreline against full-time footballers was certainly no disgrace.

Whether it’s patronising to suggest the achievement was to reach the final in the first place is open to question.

It was a run that will be talked about for years at Privett Park and may never be emulated.

But it’s a day that will live long in the memory of the Borough players who got their opportunity to play at Wembley.

Only they will know if they have any regrets on whether they performed to their maximum, even if they certainly gave their all with a wholehearted display.

Judging by the following inside Wembley, many of the popular pubs in Gosport had emptied for the day as their regulars headed to the capital hoping for a famous win.

And it was the Borough fans who were making most of the early noise to ensure their side got off to a positive start.

Pike’s men made a decent impact on the contest as Sam Pearce picked out Justin Bennett with a long diagonal ball, but his header didn’t have enough height to loop over Cambridge goalkeeper Will Norris.

But Borough were indebted to Nathan Ashmore for a fabulous save moments later as they breathed a collective sigh of relief, none more so than Pearce who should have dealt with a regulation ball over the top.

With Bird pressurising the defender, Pearce stumbled to allow the striker a clear run at goal, but Ashmore did superbly to stay big and spread himself to keep out the first genuine opportunity of the game.

While it was understandably cagey stuff in the opening quarter, both sides were probing for the openings, rather than throwing too much caution to the wind.

Josh Carmichael’s clever piece of skill won a free-kick in a decent position.

And although Brett Poate’s scuffed attempt never looked like threatening the goal, Bennett almost capitalised as he controlled and swivelled to fire narrowly over the crossbar.

While neither side were able to create anything resembling a decent chance for a spell, Borough will have been more than happy with their start to the game as they reached the midway point of the half on level terms.

It might have been even better as they found their rhythm with two quickfire opportunities.

Firstly as Jamie Brown’s snapshot was dealt with before Mike Gosney’s pacy run at the heart of the Cambridge defence ended with a disappointing right-footed attempt, that carried nowhere near enough power to test Norris.

Tim Sills asked questions of Norris with a low drive before Ashmore needed to be alert once again to race from his line to block as Josh Gillies bored down on goal.

While Norris looked less than convincing as he fumbled a Bennett strike, it was Cambridge who broke the deadlock seven minutes before the interval as Bird proved his finishing prowess.

Latching on to a clever dinked ball over the top, Borough defenders appealed in vain for an offside flag but Bird needed no second invitation to lob the ball casually over the advancing Ashmore’s head.

It was harsh on Borough who had certainly been a match for their higher-division opponents, but the U’s always looked a touch more clinical in front of goal.

And that became even more evident five minutes into the second half as Donaldson doubled the lead.

Disappointingly for Borough, it was another ball over the top of their defence that caught them out.

Liam Hughes picked out the run with a glorious ball and Donaldson took it wide of Ashmore and lashed it home gleefully.

Pike attempted to change the course of the game with a double substitution, replacing Brown and Sills with Rory Williams and Dan Woodward.

But the game was effectively over just moments later when Donaldson grabbed his second.

A Cambridge shot came back off the upright, before Borough appeared to have escaped an almighty scramble with a series of blocks.

But Donaldson kept his cool and buried his shot in the corner to send the United fans wild.

Bennett produced another impressive turn and shot, which grazed the far post as Borough sought a foothold back into the contest.

But fears were raised that it could turn into an embarrassment 12 minutes from time.

Borough were sliced open once again.

Berry was chopped down in the box by Danny Smith and the referee did not hesitate in pointing to the spot.

However, he certainly showed sympathy by only issuing a yellow card.

Berry made no mistake with the spot-kick. He stepped up well to send Ashmore the wrong way.

But Borough still turned in a brave effort in the closing minutes, searching for a consolation goal for their vocal fans.

It so nearly arrived four minutes from time.

Substitute Woodward’s angled drive looked destined for the top corner of the net.

However, it only clipped the top of the crossbar and bounced to safety with the goalkeeper nowhere near it.

But perhaps it was a fitting epitaph to the game.

It also proved beyond any doubt that it was simply not Borough’s day in the sun.