As an advertisement for Non-League Day, this game won’t have tempted many potential newcomers as Fleet lost their unbeaten record to a first-half Warren Bentley goal in a match short on chances and entertainment.
The visitors made two changes with Mark Phillips ruled out after a recent car accident and he was replaced by Reiss Greenidge. Elsewhere, Jack Connors came in for Sean Shields. The early exchanges set the pattern for what was to follow with neither side showing much adventure, GOsport forcing a couple of corners and Fleet just weighing up their opponents early on.
Charlie Sheringham had the first shot on target on six minutes but former Torquay goalkeeper Martin Rice wasn’t unduly troubled and made the stop. Gosport continued to have a couple of opportunities but were generally wasteful and produced little to trouble their former favourite son Nathan Ashmore.
The referee was doing little to enamour himself to home manager Alex Pike and when Brett Poate’s header appeared to be helped over the bar by Kenny Clark, the award of a goal kick roused the home crowd. The official repeated the trick at the other end a little later on to balance things out, ignoring Fleet’s blatant corner in favour of a goal kick.
On the quarter-hour mark, Anthony Cook looked like he might pick up where he left off against Margate as he beat TJ Cuthbertson for pace and delivered a decent cross that just eluded Aaron McLean.
But on 21 minutes, Gosport edged ahead, coming from their fourth corner of the contest. The ball in was a looping delivery and with Fleet’s defence standing off, it invited top scorer Bentley to seize the chance and bury a shot beyond Ashmore. Moments later a ball out to the flanks saw Dan Wooden race into space and he had the edge on Dave Winfield but though his shot was wide of Ashmore, it also bent wide of the far post.
Fleet’s only real sight of goal arrived on 25 minutes when Connors was fouled just outside the box. Jack Powell swung the free-kick in from the left and it floated all the way through, a goal denied only by Poate clearing off the line via his head.
Fleet’s passing grew ragged and the strikers were isolated as the half wore on; Borough’s central defenders were able to shut up shop and keep their opponents at bay high up the pitch. There was little adventure from the home side either, though when Dean Rance surrendered possession on 35 minutes, it took a vital interception in the box from the same player moments later to deny Ben Wright.
The only other moment of note in a dreary half was a speculative shot from 40 yards by Aaron Dawson which briefly worried Ashmore as he was off his line and he had to back pedal and watch as it drifted off target.
Daryl McMahon made a double change as the second half began, Sam Deering and Shields replacing Greenidge and John Paul Kissock. Deering’s introduction especially revived the Fleet in the opening spells as the rain started to fall in a steady drizzle. On 51 minutes, Deering was able to work a neat ball wide to McLean in space but the striker’s shot lacked conviction.
Moments later, the best move of the match led to a goal – but an offside one. It was Deering again who began it, spraying the ball wide for Shields to cut inside and deliver a ball that was diverted out to McLean who struck it home, but to no effect as the flag stopped the cheers of the away fans.
It was Fleet’s best spell of the match and on 55 minutes McLean again found space, slipping past Poate as the Gosport defence tried to catch the Fleet man offside but his header was gathered by Rice. Cook then fired in another good cross that Sheringham dived at but headed wide before Powell’s low drive from 20 yards was decent but again Rice got in the way.
While the visitors continued to dominate possession, the final 20 minutes was easy enough for Gosport to defend against. Two Shields crosses were the best Fleet had to offer, the first headed wide by substitute Danny Kedwell and the second punched clear by Rice but in truth both goalkeepers were content to let their defences mop up the few and far between efforts that came and went before the final whistle put an end to it.
EUFC: Ashmore, Cook, Connors, Greenidge (Shields 46), Winfield, Clark, Rance, Kissock (Deering 46), Sheringham (Kedwell 73), McLean, Powell. Subs not used: McQueen, Miles
GBFC: Rice, Cuthbertson, Bird, Carmichael (Carter), Poate, Oastler, Dawson, Harding, Wright (Wilde), Bentley (Bailey), Wooden. Subs not used: Barron, Pearce