‘We made the wrong choices’ – Gosport boss Gale rues more dropped points in Southern League Premier South play-off chase

A week after the worst result of Shaun Gale’s managerial career, Gosport Borough’s Southern League Premier South promotion hopes received a further dent.

By Simon Carter
Sunday, 6th March 2022, 2:08 pm
Billie Busari in action for Gosport against Hendon. Picture: Tom Phillips
Billie Busari in action for Gosport against Hendon. Picture: Tom Phillips

On the back of a ‘freak’ 7-2 drubbing at Beaconsfield, Borough needed a Harvey Rew leveller to secure them a point at home to another mid-table outfit, Hendon.

With just seven games remaining, Gosport are now five points adrift of the play-off places having played more matches than the teams immediately above them.

And by the time they travel to Merthyr on March 19, Boro could easily have been overtaken in the race for the play-offs by Weston-super-Mare and Yate.

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Gosport skipper Mike Carter wins a header against Hendon, watched by Elliott Wheeler. Picture: Tom Phillips

Failure to win home games against the likes of Kings Langley, Dorchester, Swindon Supermarine, Hartley Wintney and Hendon could well come back to haunt Boro at season’s end.

‘For us, it wasn’t the result we wanted. It makes our life a little bit more difficult (in reaching the play-offs),’ Gale stated of the Hendon stalemate.

It was a game that offered little to any neutrals seeking excitement.

A ‘lively’ bobbly surface with a strong wind blowing down the pitch towards the clubhouse end were not conditions conducive to entertaining football. It was a chilly, windswept day that had more of a November feel to it than an early spring one.

Gosport striker Nicky Dembele in action against Hendon. Picture: Tom Phillips

Neither keeper had much to do in terms of dealing with on-target efforts, though Gosport were the only team who looked like winning it late on.

Gale’s assessment was, to this onlooker, fairly accurate.

‘First half we didn’t pass it enough, we went too long.

‘Again, I couldn’t fault our effort but we made the wrong choices.

‘Nicky Dembele could have had a shot but chose to square to Billy Busari, and the ball was cut out.

‘We got in good areas but it was the wrong weight of cross, the wrong choice.

‘Late on, when the keeper saved low down from Matt Briggs, there was no-one gambling on getting the loose ball.

‘It’s little things like that we needed to be better at.’

In a scrappy first half, Gosport’s best chance fell to their liveliest attacker, Busari, on 32 minutes. But given a sight of goal on the right side of the 18-yard box, the teenager’s low shot lacked power and was straight at Ethan Wady.

Five minutes later, Hendon - who had rarely threatened - took a surprise lead. Luca Allinson’s high cross from near the left touchline found Mike Carter unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box. But, in windy conditions, he could only direct his header straight to Liam Brooks, whose sliced effort sailed past the diving Finn Talley and in off a post.

Boro started the second period on the front foot and were inches away from levelling straight away - Hendon defender Maurice Nugent heading a free-kick against his own post.

The woodwork, though, also prevented a second goal for the visitors when sub Hamza Semakula’s low shot thudded against a post.

Boro were huffing and puffing and not really looking like scoring when Gale made a double change on 64 minutes, bringing on AJ Harris-Sealy and Matt Casey.

Harvey Rew switched from left back to central midfield with Matt Briggs moving from centre half - Casey taking his role - to left back.

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The changes had the desired effect, with Rew levelling from a low Harry Kavanagh cross 13 minutes from time.

Sixty seconds later, Harris-Sealy warmed Wady’s hands with a stinging shot that was parried for a corner.

Briggs was close to a winner when he surged into the Hendon area, but Wady was down well to palm away a low angled shot.

A third Boro sub, Matt Paterson, was introduced with three minutes left - and was immediately just inches away from finishing off a quick counter attack.

You left with the impression that if Gosport had started the game as they finished it - in terms of tempo, desire and keeping the ball rather than hammering it long for Dembele to chase - Gale’s men would have collected a crucial three points. After all, Hendon didn’t offer that much of a threat in a game that won’t linger long in the memory.

As it is, only the most optimistic of fans would now fancy Borough’s chances claiming a play-off place.

Gale said the players had ‘worked hard’ in training in the aftermath of the Beaconsfield nightmare.

The 7-2 humbling was the first time in his Gosport or Hawks managerial career any of his sides had conceded more than four goals in a league match.

‘It was a freak result, it was hard to take,’ he remarked. ‘But there was no point dwelling on it. You can’t blame Beaconsfield for the result against Hendon.

‘We know what we’ve got to do.

‘We went on an unbelievable run at the start of the season and we need to do it again. We know we can win games in this division.

‘There’s 21 points left and if we can pick up a decent amount, we can get to where we want to be. If we can’t … well, I haven’t thought about that yet, I’m staying positive.’

Gosport: Talley, Kavanagh, Rew, Briggs, Woodford, Carter, Wheeler, Tarbuck, Busari, Wooden, Dembele. Subs used: Harris-Sealy, Casey, Paterson.