Saturday 23rd December 2023.                              Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 0    Gosport Borough 4.

Defensive errors cost Swans dear against a very good, well-organised Gosport Borough side as they went down to their biggest defeat for almost two years. The visitors’ striker Dan Wooden will never score an easier hat-trick as he left Swans facing a mountain to climb as they went in at half-time already 3-0 down. Two of the goals had come in the final minutes of a first-half that, up to that point, had seen  Swans create chances that could have got them back into the game.  Boro were then able to sit back in the second-half however, denying Swans opportunities to get back into the game, and hitting them on the counter-attack.

There was an enforced change to the home line-up, with Stan Flaherty starting a three match ban following his red card picked up at Dorchester.

The visitors immediately forced a corner on the left, and from Harvey Rew’s kick Dan Hollands put a free header wide of the near-post.

Swans went close after three minutes when John Gilbert was twice fouled in quick succession out on the left. The second free-kick was whipped in by Jake Frailing, and the ball brushed the head of Ibrahim Olutade at the near-post before going across the 6 yard-box and just wide. Frailing found Eddie Simon on the right, and he got Anis Nuur to the byeline, but his low cross failed to find anyone in the 6 yard-box. Terrific play by Gilbert on the left sent him driving into the box, but he was just closed out. Frailing then nodded down to Nuur on the left, and he got forward to get in a good strike from 30 yards that almost deceived Boro goalkeeper Toby Steward, who just managed to palm the ball down on his line. A fine build up led to Eoin Bolger crossing high from the left, and the ball just being headed away from inside the 6 yard-box at the far-post. Swans continued to press for the opener, and a long ball down the middle almost got Olutade through, only to be just denied.

It was the visitors however who took the lead after 25 minutes with a soft goal Swans tried to play out from the back, and keeper Tyla Dickinson passed to Frailing in the left of the box, but Boro’s Jake Scrimshaw nipped in, allowing Wooden to seize on the loose ball and pass it into the net.

Scrimshaw was soon lobbing the ball over from the byeline on the right, and Dickinson just managed to tip it away from the far, top corner and behind for a corner. From Rew’s kick on the left the Swans’ keeper made a good catch.

A sweeping move by Swans led to Nuur finding Gilbert on the left touchline, and he cut inside to the corner of the box to get in a good strike that Steward beat down at his near-post.

Boro went close however after being awarded a free-kick just outside the left edge of the box, Harry Kavanagh sending a shot dipping just over. Dickinson then just managed to get a hand on the ball from a right-side corner, and it was headed off the line at the far-post.

Swans had another opportunity with just over ten minutes left of the half. Harry Pointing sent the ball from just inside his own half on the right to pick out the run of Olutade, and he sidestepped Joe Morrison on the edge of the box to get in a low, left foot shot that Steward saved on his line, with Nuur unmarked to the left. Gilbert was soon getting in a shot from the edge of the box that took a deflection to go wide of the left post. From Gilbert’s corner Simon got in front of keeper Steward at the near-post, but his glancing header flew just wide. Olutade was then found in the left of the box to have a shot deflected behind, and from Gilbert’s left-side corner the ball was headed away from the 6 yard-box.

Swans had been well in the game, but with four minutes of normal-time remaining of the half another defensive lapse cost them. Frailing tried to find Alex Kelly 40 yards out, but Rew nipped in and sent Wooden clear to the edge of the box to place the ball past Dickinson and into the left corner.

Boro then won the ball 30 yards out to send a shot wide of the left post. Swans looked shell-shocked, and four minutes into added-on time they conceded a free-kick just inches outside the left edge of the box. Bradley Tarbuck took the kick, and the ball deflected off Frailing’s right leg and onto the crossbar. Swans failed to get the ball clear, and Scrimshaw drove the ball low from the right into the 6 yard-box, where Wooden tucked it past Dickinson to complete his hat-trick.

Gosport soon won a free-kick on the left touchline in the second-half, and Dickinson just got the ball clear in the 6 yard-box as it was driven in. The ball was then nodded through to Rew in the left of the box, and he sent a shot low across goal and just wide of the far-post. It was still inside the first five minutes of the second-half when Wooden was denied a fourth goal by a tremendous double save by Dickinson. The ball was nodded through to put the Boro striker clear to the penalty-spot, but the Swans’ keeper made a superb block with his legs’ Wooden followed up, but Dickinson made another fine save before falling on the ball.

Wooden was soon replaced as the visitors began to settle back in defence, making it difficult for Swans to penetrate the final third. Gilbert did get to the right byeline to get the ball high across, but Steward made a good take on his line. Olly Allen came on for Frailing, and then Arsen Ujkaj replaced Nuur, bur Swans still struggled to create openings. There was just over ten minutes remaining when Olutade was fouled outside the left corner of the box to give an opportunity, but Gilbert’s free-kick was blocked. A good chance came when some fine play by Kelly led to him releasing Bolger on the left to drive the ball low across, but Olutade put over from the edge of the 6 yard-box. Swans at last looked like pulling a goal back with five minutes remaining when Gilbert delivered a free-kick into the box from deep on the right. Mitchal Gough made a run to get him clear to ten yards out and get in a header, but Steward made an outstanding save, diving to his left to get the ball round the post.

Gosport however soon got their fourth goal. Swans were caught pushing forward, and a long ball over the top out of defence sent Gerson Ramos clear from the centre-circle and to the edge of the box to slot past Dickinson.

Gilbert made a good run into the right of the box to being another fine save from Steward with a shot to the near-post, but Swans’ afternoon got worse in the final minute of normal-time. A long ball found Ashley Akpan, and he got past Bolger, only to be pulled back by the young   Swans’ left-back, who was shown a straight red card, being the last defender.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Harry Pointing, Eoin Bolger, Jake Frailing (Olly Allen 63’), Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Anis Nuur (Arsen Ujkaj 75’), Alex Kelly, Ibrahim Olutade, John Gilbert, Eddie Simon. Subs. not used: Harry Mills, Retega Agienoji, Joe Pratley-Jones. Cautions: Gough, Hicks, Gilbert. Dismissal: Bolger (90’).

Gosport Borough Team: Steward, Kavanagh, Hookey, Morrison, Medway, Hollands, Tarbuck, Rew (Sharp 60’), Wooden (Ramos 52’), Barsa, Scrimshaw (Akpan). Subs. not used: Diaz, Vine. Scorers: Wooden (25’, 41’ & 45+4’), Ramos (88’). Cautions: Tarbuck, Kavanagh, Sharp.