GOSPORT let a lead slip in the final 10 minutes as they lost 24-7 at Sidcup in London one south.
Coach Mark Wells had to watch on as injuries to Sam Foster and Wayne Dugan and a yellow card for Ryan Thorne hit hard in the final stages.
But with experienced duo Ash Burton and Wes Dugan making their presence felt on their return to Gosport action, there was plenty for Wells and his men to take encouragement from.
Wells’ team led 7-5 with just three minutes of normal time remaining, but failed to hold out against their fifth-placed hosts.
Then the nightmare final 10 minutes saw the score heavily turn in favour of Sidcup.
Gosport’s cause was certainly not helped by what was a harsh yellow card and the injuries.
‘We were the better side and should have won it,’ said Wells.
‘For 20 minutes either side of half-time we were on top and one of their players could have been sent off for a poor tackle that took our number eight off for a while.
‘We were still leading, heading into the last 10 minutes.
‘Then we lost Sam Foster and Wayne Dugan with injuries and had Ryan Thorne yellow-carded.
‘He was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on but he went for the ball with two hands and that was harsh.
‘Once Sidcup scored their second try that was it.’
It was a shame because Gosport & Fareham looked to be heading for a first away win of the season, with the return of Wes Dugan sparking a much-improved performance.
Sidcup led 5-0 at the interval but the visitors hit back midway through the second period.
Vetaia Veiteve’s try took them level before the conversion.
Thorne’s kick then bounced over, via the upright, to put Gosport & Fareham in front.
Then it all went horribly wrong, leaving Sidcup with a flattering final scoreline and a bonus-point win.
To pile on the misery, the other results at the wrong end of the table went against Gosport, sending them next to bottom of London one south.
But Wells was not in downbeat mood after the performance.
He is confident an upturn in results for his team is not far away.
‘Despite losing, the performance was very encouraging,’ said Wells.
‘The return of experienced figures like Ash Burton and Wes Dugan made all the difference.
‘It shows we can easily compete against sides at the top end of mid-table. All we need is another win to get some momentum going again.
‘I still maintain there are half a dozen sides scrapping it out at the bottom and we are capable of finishing top of that pile.’
Bottom-of-the-league outfit Old Colfeians arrive at Gosport Park next weekend.
The basement battle promises to be a real crunch affair.
It could well turn out to be a big lifeline for Gosport if they can win it and Wells is well aware of the significance of the contest.
Even at this early stage of the season, the losers will be left in big trouble with a daunting task to rescue their survival prospects.
Wells added: ‘Next Saturday’s game is a must-win affair and we should be back to full strength.’