Needing just one more point to be mathematically certain of avoiding relegation, Wimborne were thwarted by a “soft” penalty in the 85th minute. In a tense game of few clear-cut chances, Charlie Davis’s spot-kick denied the visitors a share of the spoils which their dogged determination deserved.
After Saturday’s victory over Supermarine, manager Matty Holmes made one change – James Stokoe returning to the starting XI in place of the injured Stefan Penny.
On another very warm afternoon, and in front of Gosport’s largest crowd of the season, the home side had the better of a cagey opening quarter hour. On 12 minutes, Gerard Benfield adjusted his position to make an excellent save from a deflected shot, just before Toby Holmes, running on to a through ball from Luke Burbidge, was stopped by Sam Roberts’ strong tackle.
On 18 minutes, Wimborne produced the first flowing move of the game. Eight passes ended with Sam Davidson pulling the ball back from the right by-line. When the resulting corner was returned into the middle by Franklyn Clarke, Burbidge’s shot at the near post forced another corner.
More Burbidge trickery on 26 minutes saw the winger go down under a heavy challenge in the penalty area – referee Chard waved play-on. At the other end, the elusive Ibra Sekajja’s pull-back to Davis saw Benfield make a sprawling save. Sekajja’s shot from a quick turn went just wide of the post, Craig McAllister sent another attempt over Benfield’s bar, and Sekajja made space on the right before his inviting cross flashed across the face of the goal.
With Sam Bayston replacing Carl Pettefer at the break, Wimborne started the second half brightly. Benfield’s long goal-kick found Toby in space behind the home defence, he pulled the ball back to the on-rushing Lee Francis, whose shot crashed into the side netting. On 51 minutes, Bayston chased a lost cause down the left to win a corner. When it came over, Matt Oldring, in space, headed the ball back into the danger area, but it was cleared. As Bayston burst into the box on the left on 53 minutes, he was taken down. The referee decided the offence had taken place outside the penalty area and placed the ball a foot outside the corner of the box. Billy Maybury’s free-kick was blocked by the tall end of a 3-man wall.
An increasingly anxious home dugout sent on striker Tony Lee just before the hour mark. His first touch had Benfield flying across his goal to turn his fierce shot round the post. For the visitors, Luke Holmes replaced the clearly not well Toby on 65 minutes. Five minutes later Burbidge found Bayston, and his shot from an acute angle billowed the side netting. Gosport threw on more attacking options, and ramped up the pressure on the Wimborne goal. Three brave blocks and clearing headers keeping the hosts at bay.
And then, just as the game had 0-0 written all over it, came that debatable late penalty. Going across the penalty area from right to left, the elusive Sekajja ran between Oldring and Maybury. As all three challenged for the ball the winger went down. It would have been a brave referee to wave away the appeals of the home supporters massed behind the goal. Skipper Davis, under immense pressure, thrashed the ball into the corner of the net.
Desperate Gosport defending gave away free-kicks which Burbidge launched into the box. Benfield added his height to one of them, and Davidson almost connected with a flick-on at the far post. But it was not to be, and the home supporters celebrated wildly at the final whistle.
Deciding the league winners, the final play-off place, and the third relegation spot all comes down to the final games of the season on Saturday – football doesn’t get much more exciting than this!
Wimborne: Benfield, Lee, Maybury, Davidson, Oldring, Pettefer (Bayston 46), Stokoe, Clarke, T.Holmes (L.Holmes 65), Burbidge, Francis.
Unused subs: Collins, Pope, Shepherd
Report by Graham Dunn