Gosport Borough 2 Pompey 3

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You know Pompey are in town when the bar is drunk dry.

Gosport Borough officials had to roll out the barrel when they nipped over to the neighbouring cricket club for a couple of extra kegs of lager, while someone else had to pop down to the nearest supermarket as other alcohol supplies ran out in the clubhouse.

Conor Chaplin celebrates opening the scoring at Privett Park.  Picture: Steve Reid Blitz Photography

Conor Chaplin celebrates opening the scoring at Privett Park. Picture: Steve Reid Blitz Photography

A thirsty crowd of 2,020 turned up at Privett Park and were treated to a decent game as Pompey eased into a two-goal lead but were then pegged back and seemingly destined for a third straight draw against non-league opposition.

But rather than drowning their sorrows, it was Blues fans raising an extra glass to young striker Conor Chaplin after his late strike gave Paul Cook his maiden Pompey win at the third time of asking.

Chaplin, playing in a withdrawn role behind the lone frontman in Cook’s 4-2-3-1 formation, impressed with his display, netting the first goal early on and was involved in much of the good work in the first half.

While he flitted in and out of the game after the break, he always looked like he might be the one to create something.

As it was, Theo Robinson did himself no harm in his attempts to earn a contract at Pompey to put his team 2-0 up before Chaplin slotted home the winner.

But Pompey probably didn’t expect to need his late intervention and certainly hadn’t bargained for a spirited Borough fightback that saw Justin Bennett and substitute Jamie White level the scores with two goals in the space of two second-half minutes.

Most managers will say results don’t matter at this stage of the season.

But Cook would not be human if he didn’t want to get that first win under his belt, even if it will be a distant memory when the League Two season starts in three weeks.

Winning is a useful habit –even in pre-season – and after successive 1-1 draws against Hawks and Bognor, a third draw would certainly not have signalled panic stations.

But it may just have made things a bit edgier as the manager attempts to get his new team firing on all cylinders.

A victory – even one secured in the 89th minute against team from two divisions below – will certainly help settle things down, even if the team that starts the season will be very different to the one on show at Gosport.

Borough were certainly second best in the first half, when they failed to really test Michael Poke, but looked much brighter after the break and then appeared the most likely winners after pulling it back to 2-2.

After narrowly missing out on the Conference South play-offs last term, they will take heart from their display and it suggests they can make another concerted push for promotion this season.

With Borough having had work on their Privett Park pitch over the summer, the surface was bobbly in places and a little too fiery to get too much slick passing going in the early stages.

It meant both sides often required an extra touch and there were several misplaced passes when anyone tried to play a first-time ball.

But Kal Naismith showed some good early intent as Borough found it hard to get to grips with the movement of the front quartet.

With Jayden Stockley and Robinson rotating as the lone striker, there was also freedom for Chaplin and Naismith to play on either flank or centrally in behind.

It meant the Borough defenders were often left looking for their man to pick up as Pompey dominated possession and showed plenty of good movement.

The first-half opportunities all fell to Cook’s side and they should have enjoyed a more comfortable lead than the single goal at the break.

And it was some good interplay that allowed Chaplin to put Pompey ahead with a smart finish from eight yards out.

Naismith escaped down the right flank, jinked inside and cut back for the 18-year-old, who made no mistake as he beat former Blues triallist Nathan Ashmore.

The Borough keeper then pulled off an excellent save low down to his right to deny Naismith, while Chaplin might have had a second soon afterwards as he was just unable to apply the flick to Scotsman’s low centre.

Robinson’s powerful drive was bravely charged down by Borough skipper Sam Pearce as Pompey threatened a second goal and Stockley’s attempted overhead kick was cleared by the home defence at the last moment.

At the other end, Gosport only got going in the final few minutes of the half as Tom Dunford saw his effort deflected over before Ben Harding dragged a shot wide.

It was the home side who looked more dangerous after the break, however, with last season’s top Conference South marksman Bennett, who had barely had a kick in the first half, suddenly much more involved.

Gosport’s all-time leading goalscorer twice went close soon after the restart, turning past Adam Webster and firing over from the angle before his long-range strike whistled over the crossbar.

With Borough making a decent fist of getting back into it, Pompey had not been struggling to find their attacking momentum from the first half.

But they sprung to life when Brandon Haunstrup pushed forward from left-back, found Robinson with a nice reverse pass and the striker somehow beat Ashmore from the tightest of angles at his near post to double their lead.

Surely, that was job done for Pompey?

But the game took an unexpected turn with two goals in the space of a couple of minutes as Borough roared back.

First Bennett latched on to substitute Steve Ramsey’s ball to nip in between the defender and goalkeeper to pull one back before White raced away and supplied a cool finish to beat Poke.

With Pompey’s youthful defence rocking and fatigue no doubt playing a part, it was Borough who looked the stronger outfit.

Bennett and White both had chances to put Borough ahead late on, while Stockley was inches away from connecting with a diving header from Chaplin’s cross.

But with the game set to finish all square, Robinson showed great endeavour to chase back and win possession from Dan Woodward to set Pompey on the counter-attack.

Stockley made inroads down the left flank and picked out Chaplin who did the rest from close range with an assured finish.

GOSPORT: Ashmore, Cuthbertson (Woodward, 64min), Walker (Brice, 46min), Pearce (Woodford, 46min), Williams (Poate, 64min), Ryan (Ramsey, 60min), Harding, Robinson (Scott, 60min), Dunford, Wort (White, 53min), Bennett (Stephens, 82min).

POMPEY: Poke, Nilsen, Webster, Field, Haunstrup, Hollands, Close, Naismith (McGurk, 64min), Chaplin, Robinson, Stockley. Subs not used: Jones, Stevens, Atangana.