A determined display from the Peacocks saw them battle back to even things out after the visitors had taken the honours in the earlier fixture on the opening day of the season. More importantly the victory turned around Town’s fortunes following two defeats over Christmas although it wasn’t easy, an early penalty being overtaken by Gosport who led at the interval before a quickfire double during the second half saw the hosts home.
Team changes were necessary from the Tiverton game, Dan Sullivan back in the starting line-up for Harry Kite who had been recalled by Exeter City, while Shane White returned to the No 2 slot and Jamie Price reverted to centre half. It was White who was involved in the build-up to the first goal after just six minutes, clipping a pass into the box to find Dan Sullivan who appeared to be bundled over by Ryan Woodford. The loose ball was picked up by Andrew Neal and when Matt Wright was impeded by Dan Strugnell as he went to head the cross, referee Annis pointed to the spot. Neal’s penalty was palmed out by Ben Dudzinski, but Ryan Brett was quickly onto the rebound to slide home the opener.
Another penalty then brought the sides level after 11 minutes. Sullivan had deflected a Rory Williams shot over the bar to earn Gosport a corner, from which Nick Grimes and an opponent tangled. With no appeals from the Gosport players and to the bemusement of the crowd the referee decided another spot kick was necessary and Williams comfortably converted. Sullivan drove an effort over the bar as Town looked to hit back immediately but it was Borough who grabbed the lead after 14 minutes. A neat link-up between Chris Flood and George Barker gave the latter a shooting opportunity from eight yards, Lloyd Irish made the save but Flood was onto the loose ball to fire over the line.
Attacking the Invest Southwest End, Neal sliced horribly wide and both Sullivan and Lewis Hall saw shots blocked in the same attack. Ben Adelsbury also ventured forward but saw his 25 yard effort deflect to the keeper. Gosport were closer to the target, Mike Carter blasting just over the top after a free kick had hit the wall, then Marley Ridge drilled a shot narrowly past the post when Town had failed to clear their lines. As the officials continued to confound with their decision making, the visitors continued to threaten up to the break, Barker running at the defence before sending an attempt wide of the far post, then a soft free kick gave Williams a strike which Irish clutched low down. The Peacocks had the last word, Brett finding Ollie Chamberlain whose shot was held by Dudzinski, as they departed for the changing rooms knowing they had it all to do in the second half.
Williams flashed a cross in front of goal when play resumed while for Town, Brett fired a shot just over and a Sullivan header from Wright’s cross proved a routine save for Dudzinski. A double substitution just before the hour mark saw Jamie Short and Owen Windsor introduced for Grimes and Neal who both had knocks but frustratingly home efforts were still not bearing fruit, Wright heading down a Brett corner but no-one was there to take advantage, then Sullivan hooked wide after White’s throw had been flicked on.
A defensive slip allowed Charlie Kennedy to thread a pass through to Flood who drove narrowly over at the other end before Town brought on Bristol City loanee Ryley Towler for his debut and within three minutes the match had swung back in the hosts’ favour. With 73 minutes gone, a White throw was cleared back to him and his lofted cross was met by a bullet header from Sullivan, giving Dudzinski no chance and bringing the Peacocks level. Then barely two minutes later, Towler made ground down the left to find Windsor and the West Brom man cut inside and squared to Chamberlain whose strike from the edge of the area beat Dudzinski’s dive to nestle in the corner of the net, a remarkable turnaround and Town now had the lead.
White’s header from a Brett corner was also destined for the net before being headed clear by Strugnell, with Sullivan’s follow-up gathered by Dudzinski before Irish made the best save of the afternoon, foiling Sam Argent after he had turned in the box following a Ridge free kick. The game continued to swing from end to end, Towler coming close to a debut goal but was just unable to force the ball in from Wright’s knockdown as Dudzinski recovered while Argent saw two late efforts miss the target as Town saw out six minutes of stoppage time to keep themselves very much in the promotion chase.
Match: Taunton Town vs Gosport Borough
Date: January 4, 2020
Competition: Southern League
Venue: The Cygnet Health Care Stadium
Kick Off: 3.00pm
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Shane White, Lewis Hall (Ryley Towler 72), Ben Adelsbury, Nick Grimes (Jamie Short 57), Jamie Price, Ollie Chamberlain, Ryan Brett, Matt Wright (captain), Dan Sullivan, Andrew Neal (Owen Windsor 57). Unused sub: Callum Watts
Gosport: Ben Dudzinski, Dan Strugnell, Rory Williams, Mike Carter, Ryan Woodford, Sam Roberts, Liam Robinson (Alex John 82), George Barker (Sam Argent 69), Charlie Kennedy, Marley Ridge (Charlie Davis 65), Chris Flood. Unused subs: Matt Patterson, Alan Walker-Harris
Referee: Steven Annis (Penzance)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Ryan Cornelius (Plymouth)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Neil Lane (Plymouth)
The Albert Goodman Man Of The Match