Gosport fought back in the second half.
By David Barber - Monday, 20 August, 2012
The superfan was down on the Hampshire coast.
It’s a kind of tradition that the League season starts in searingly hot conditions that are totally unsuitable for football. Only mad dogs and footballers go out in the 3pm sun. When I made my trips to Barbados in the Caribbean in the ‘80s, they told me they wouldn’t dream of playing during the day. Their League and Cup matches took place as ‘double headers’ in the evening.
On the first of those trips I noticed in the local paper that there was a Division One fixture at 8 o’clock in the morning! I would like to have seen that, assuming I could’ve got a bus that early from where our villa was, but unfortunately it was the day we were due to fly back and I couldn’t quite manage it.
My choice on Saturday was Gosport Borough v Barwell in the Southern League Premier Division, reached via a train from Waterloo to Portsmouth and a ferry across the harbour to Gosport. They say: “It’s shorter by water”. Boro’s Privett Park home was where I attended my first football match at the age of nine with Dad and Grandad*. It was a pre-season friendly, something like First XI v Reserves, and the Mayor of Gosport – who my Grandad knew – asked me to be one of the linesmen. Naturally I made a complete mess of it.
Much later Privett Park was also the ground where I experienced my lowest ever attendance of ‘minus one’. Dad and I paid our 50 pences to watch a Gosport Borough Ladies match and saw several ponytailed youngsters kicking in as we walked round to the stand. Soon we realised they were actually boys, not girls, and the match we had come to see was being played in a field a couple of hundred yards away. We left the ground before the ‘chaps’ kicked off, passing another supporter on his way in.
Minus two, plus one, equals minus one.
It was Gosport’s first Premier Division fixture for 22 years on Saturday. A 1-0 defeat at Burton Albion on 6 May 1990 had consigned them to relegation after six ‘golden years’ at that exalted level. A crowd of 327 saw them dominate the first half against Barwell but go behind in the last few seconds before the break. The visitors, from Leicestershire, were FA Vase Semi-Finalists three seasons ago. On Christmas Eve in 1965 the village of Barwell was showered by meteor fragments – an unusual ‘claim to fame’.
Nine minutes into the second half Gosport’s No.6 was flattened as a corner came over from the left and the ref immediately pointed to the spot. The guilty party was booked (to his absolute astonishment) and the Barwell ‘keeper was also booked for an unhelpful remark to the penalty taker, who proceeded to slam the ball into the bottom left corner. He walked over to the goalie and, inches from his face, shouted “Get in!” A bit unnecessary, I thought.
Barwell scored a freakish winner in the third minute of stoppage time.
*My first official match, the first of 6,310, was Crystal Palace v Hitchin Town in The FA Cup three months later.
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