the real fa cup

Before The Goal That Never Was

photo(1).JPG Bashley 1-1 Gosport Borough, FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round

It was a clash of two managers who had made their names in other cup competitions at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.

Bashley boss Frank Gray lifted the European Cup as a Nottingham Forest player, while opposite number Alex Pike led Wimborne Town to FA Vase glory in 1992.

The sides had cancelled each other out when they met at Privett Park in the Southern Premier in late August, apparently not the drab encounter the scoreline suggests.

It’s a minor miracle that Bashley, a tiny village, plays in the same league as Gosport, Weymouth and Kettering Town. Their ground has bags of non-league charm, with a cheerfully manned refreshment hut and a neighbouring field containing some vocal horses.

The Recreation Ground is a characterful arena that has played host to the likes of AFC Wimbledon and Crawley Town in league competition in recent years. Bashley famously battled to the Second Round Proper in 1994, when Swansea City were fortunate to return from the New Forest with a single goal victory.

Gray has got off to a mixed start at Bashley, with three losses, two wins and a draw from his first six games in charge. But an injury time winner in last Saturday’s game with Bedworth United showed the kind of resolve the 57-year-old has brought to the club. I’ll ignore Tuesday’s 3-0 reverse at Chesham United.

It was the perfect start for Bashley as they netted with less than a minute on the clock. Debutant Rob Gradwell glanced home Charlie Knight’s cross with only 50 seconds played to give the yellow perils a dream start. The matchday announcer was giving little away when asked where Gladwell had come from (‘he’s from near Basingstoke’), but whoever he was, and wherever they’d found him, he’d put the home side ahead.

Life was sweet: the sun was shining, Bashley were already a goal to the good and an unopened Golden Goal ticket nested in my back pocket. I daren’t check the scores on my phone, but Bournemouth probably weren’t even losing yet!

photo(3).JPG The hosts failed to kick on from that early goal and Gosport had the upper hand for the remainder of the half, with striker Justin Bennett putting in an impressive shift. It was no great surprise to see former Pompey and Bournemouth midfielder Sammy Igoe pulling the strings in midfield for Gosport. He sprayed the ball about nicely and was the engine room behind many attacks.

The real star turn was young Bashley midfielder Tom Hill, who not only broke up play effectively but also distributed intelligently.  Despite Hill’s industry, Gosport bossed the play, and really should have been level by half time.

But the visitors’ sloppy finishing meant that goalkeeper Joe Prodomo was never really tested.

Bashley seized the initiative and were well on top for much of the second half but, like Borough, didn’t give the goalkeeper an awful lot to worry about. Chances came and went; surely one of them would be put away?

As international man of mystery Gradwell volleyed over from close range late on, you got the feeling that it was going to be ‘one of those days’.

For me, the chants of ‘beat by a village, you’re getting beat by a village’ from the wags assembled behind the goal were the cause of Bashley’s downfall. Talk about tempting fate.

There was a grim predictability about Gosport’s 89th minute equaliser; Bashley led from the first minute but hadn’t put the game to bed. As Borough goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore ventured forward for a free kick, the home defence panicked and the ball bounced in off Gary Middleton for an own goal.

On reflection the draw was a fair result, although both teams could argue that they would have won had they taken their chances. Despite the wayward finishes, this game was a great advert for Southern Premier football: an open game, played mainly on the ground that sent most of the 200-odd supporters home happy.

There was once again nothing to choose between the two sides over the course of 90 minutes in the replay. Lee Molyneaux twice put Borough ahead from close range, but Tom Hill and James Stokoe replied for Bashley.

Stokoe then powered home what looked like a late winner for the visitors, but after the ball had crossed the line, the unofficial Bashley club website alleges, it was hacked through a hole in the net by a defender and the unsighted referee awarded a corner. Gosport eventually emerged victorious after Dan Woodward cut in from the wing to smash into the top corner in extra time.

Hopefully, despite the ‘goal that never was’ incident in the replay, this can be the beginning of a healthy rivalry between the two clubs. Not one built on hate, just on highly competitive, entertaining games.

All photos and words courtesy Andy Lloyd Williams

Andy writes for Hayters sports agency and Artrocker magazine. His first book, Robin van Persie – The Biography, is available here. Tweet him here @A_LloydWilliams

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