MARK FORD came off the bench and rescued a deserved point for the Terras in a six-goal thriller at the Bob Lucas Stadium last night.
Weymouth showed tremendous character to come from behind twice in the encounter and perhaps would have won the game had they not been forced into fielding a makeshift defence due to injuries.
Kyle Critchell, who has been carrying a groin injury, was the only absentee from the side that kept a clean sheet in the victory over Tiverton Town last weekend and there is no doubt he was missed.
Alex Jeannin came in as replacement after his niggling hamstring injury came through a late fitness test while Lee Sharpe was brought in on the bench. One familiar face in the Gosport line-up was ex-Dorchester Town man Jamie Brown, who the Terras attempted to sign during the summer.
Ex-Weymouth winger Adam Wilde was also on Boro’s bench.
Both teams entered the game off the back of morale-boosting victories in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy and with driving rain having saturated the pitch ahead of kick-off it had all the hallmarks of an intriguing encounter.
The opening exchanges were well contested in the blustery conditions but neither team were able to fashion any meaningful chances.
Justin Bennett blazed high and wide for Gosport on 11 minutes following a superb pass from Luke King but immediately after that the Terras replied with a period of sustained pressure with Craig Duff almost getting on the end of a cross from Dan Smith.
Weymouth then had two corners in quick succession but on each occasion visiting keeper Nathan Ashmore plucked the ball out of the air with confidence.
Unfortunately, the hosts’ momentum was then brought to an end when Barry McConnell required treatment and Jeannin was forced to come off for Lewis Clarke on 21 minutes.
Thankfully McConnell was fit to continue and he immediately moved inside to partner Ed Palmer with Clarke slotting in at right-back.
The disruption was far from ideal and just five minutes later the young substitute gave away possession in a bad area allowing James Ford to slip through Thomas Dunford.
The fleet-footed forward was in the clear and he made no mistake as he slotted the ball through the legs of onrushing keeper Simon Evans.
That setback was hard to take for the Terras and moments later the visitors broke again with Dunford this time teeing up Bennett, whose shot was blocked by McConnell on the cover.
The Terras desperately needed to get a hold on the game again and on 36 minutes they had a great chance to equalise when Scott Walker’s pinpoint cross picked out Duff, whose unchallenged header looped agonisingly over the crossbar.
The half then drew to a close with very little incident until a slick move from Gosport very nearly saw them double their lead just seconds before the interval when Dunford laid the ball off to Bennett, who blazed over from 16 yards.
King desperately needed to raise his troops at half-time but he failed to get the immediate reaction he was after as Gosport continued to stifle his side’s advances at the start of the second period.
Weymouth were beginning to look short of ideas but when Dan Smith was pole-axed on 58 minutes up stepped Walker, who delivered a perfectly-flighted ball into the box for Palmer to head past Ashmore from 10 yards.
It was just what the Terras deserved but straight from the restart they switched off and nearly paid the price when Bennett broke away, only to lash the ball well wide of the target.
Walker then went close from another set-piece at the other end before a long ball out of defence saw Joyce race clean through on 63 minutes and drive a shot across Ash-more to put the hosts in front.
Weymouth had seemingly taken control but just two minutes later they were left stunned by a 30-yard thunderbolt from Daniel Smith that flew past the despairing dive of Evans.
Now it was Boro’s turn to be on the up but the home side stood firm and nearly went ahead again with 19 minutes remaining when another excellent delivery from Walker saw Duff head over at the far post.
Daniel Wooden then cleared the crossbar for Gosport before Ford entered the fray for the Terras, replacing Matt Groves.
The game had become so stretched that another goal looked a certainty and unfortunately for the home fans it was the visitors that got it on 75 minutes through Bennett.
Gosport’s top-scorer had seemed off form for most of the night but when he touched the ball past Palmer and raced through there was never any doubt as he lifted a shot over Evans to chalk up his eighth goal in all competitions this season.
The Terras could hardly believe it but somehow they galvanised themselves and just three minutes later it was all square again.
Ashmore failed to hold a shot from Smith and when the ball spilled loose there was Ford to pounce on the rebound.
It was once again anyone’s game but neither side were able to force home a late winner on a night of terrific entertainment.
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