Heartbreak for Parkway as Dembele seals last minute victory for Boro
Written by Graham Lloyd
Images by Dave Harry
2 - Gosport Borough (Widdrington pen 25, Dembele 90) 1 - Plymouth Parkway (Palfrey 56)
Parkway made the 350 mile round trip to Southern League Premier (step 3) side Gosport Borough in the 1st Round Qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup. Parkway made 2 changes from their Bank Holiday Monday 4-1win over Willand Rovers with Billy Palfrey replacing Michael Landricombe and Callum Hall in for the unavailable Mikey Williams. Gosport currently lie 2nd in the table on goal difference having won 4 and lost 1 of their games having not conceded a goal in the last 3.
The game got off to a sharp start with both sides settling well however the hosts were forced into a substitution on 5 minutes with Pat Suraci replacing the injured Bradley Tarbuck. Parkway were quickly into their stride looking sharp and creative in midfield and dangerous down both flanks. A free kick by Harrison Davis on 7 minutes was blocked with River Allen and Davis linking well to force an early corner. Another Parkway attack on 9 minutes saw Tom Bath and the industrious Matt Andrew combine well to create an opportunity as they continued on the front foot forcing another couple of corners which were well defended.
Parkway continued to apply pressure moving the ball quickly through the lines forcing Gosport back but were unable to create any clear chances despite all their possession. On 13 minutes the speedy Nicky Dembele broke free on the right for the hosts with Davis doing well to cover the danger. Yet another corner on 14 minutes saw Jack Crago head just over as Parkway continued to threaten, more than matching their higher league opponents. On 20 minutes a loose ball from the Parkway defence fell to Dembele who fired wildly over from around 20 yards. With Allen, Andrew and Palfrey prominent in midfield they continued to probe for an opening with the Gosport defence working hard to stem the tide. On 20 minutes Parkway almost took the lead their play deserved when an angled whipped in cross from the right from Davis was volleyed just over by Crago from close range. A difficult chance but one that needed to be taken.
Gosport took the lead on 25 minutes from the penalty spot, arguably against the run of play. A long ball into the heart of the Parkway 18 yard area caused some confusion with Dan Wooden being brought down by Callum Rose with debutant Theo Widdrington confidently despatching the spot kick. Despite the setback Parkway responded well continuing to look the better side and on 27 minutes Bath won a header which dropped to Hall whose shot was blocked. Gosport generally playing on the break saw Wooden go clear on 34 minutes with his effort being blocked and going behind for a corner which resulted in Kyle Moore making his first meaningful save of the game after Dembele had fired in the loose ball. The hosts Elliot Wheeler then saw yellow after a foul some 30 yards out on their right with Allen’s curling low free kick going narrowly wide. A strong run by Crago along the left came to nothing with Gosport breaking away and Widdrington’s fierce drive being pushed away by Moore.
Parkway finished the half the stronger with Rose seeing his header fly just wide from another free kick and on the cusp of half time a neat passage of play between Andrew and Ryan Lane set up Palfrey whose shot was deflected behind for yet another corner. After looking the better side for much of the half, Parkway could consider themselves unfortunate to go in at the break behind but were unable to convert their superior possession and approach play into too many clear chances with the Gosport defence holding firm. The second half started in dramatic fashion with Parkway being reduced to 10 men on 47 minutes. A strong challenge close to the touch line by Hall on Harvey Rew caused a minor scuffle and after a short delay and a period of confusion and to the bewilderment of the majority of the partisan crowd of 555, Hall was shown a red card. With Parkway now forced to reorganise, Gosport came more into the game and created a couple of chances with a Rew cross on 52 minutes being deflected behind with Moore making a fine save on 55 minutes from an angled drive by Luke Hallet.
With Parkway having regrouped and regained their composure, they deservedly equalised on 56 minutes. A long ball into the Gosport 18 yard box was not cleared and the energetic Palfrey pounced onto the loose ball to fire a shot high into the roof of the net from around 8 yards. Parkway continued to push forward and almost went ahead on 58 minutes. A break along the left featuring Lane and Crago saw the ball played into the unmarked Bath on the edge of the 18 yard area whose shot was cleared off the line with keeper Bert White beaten and the follow up Parkway effort flying narrowly wide.
Gosport now began to be the more dominant side with Suraci looking particularly dangerous down the left as the pressure on the Parkway defence increased. Around the hour mark Andrew and Davis picked up yellow cards for fouls with Hallet heading a free kick just over. Hallet was replaced by Bouwe Bosma on 71 minutes as the hosts continued to threaten. A rare break forward by Parkway on 73 minutes saw a Palfrey shot deflected but it was Gosport who created further chances with Joe Lea firing over and the impressive Suracri weaving his way into the area and Rose blocking his shot.
With Parkway defending in numbers and Gosport forcing the pace, Moore saved well from Widdrington on 75 minutes with the same player shooting wide shortly after. Parkway were now forced into playing long balls out of defence and won a corner on 83 minutes from which Rose headed just over. Gosport made their final change on 84 minutes with Matt Casey replacing Widdrington and they almost took the lead on 85 minutes. A cross from Suraci was headed onto the bar by Wooden with Moore making a point blank save from the rebound. With Parkway now looking to see the game out, on 87 minutes they made their only substitution with Landricombe replacing the tireless Bath. Parkway’s stout resistance was finally broken in the 90th minute as Dembele cut in from the right sending a fierce drive from around 20 yards through a crowded 18 yard area into the bottom corner past a despairing full stretch dive by Moore.
Parkway then threw men forward in search of an equaliser but it was the hosts who almost increased their lead in the 3 minutes of stoppage with Landricombe making a superb one on one covering tackle to deny the hosts a third goal. A pulsating game in which Parkway more than matched their higher league opponents for much of the game the pattern of which undoubtedly changed after the sending off. They did more than enough to deserve at least a draw and it took an outstanding goal to decide the game of fine margins.
Post match conversations with some home supporters indicated that Parkway were the best team they had played this season and most agreed a draw would have been a fair result and they were glad not to have to travel to Devon for a midweek replay. Some even thought the penalty a harsh call. Parkway were not disgraced, responded positively to going down to 10 men and can be proud of their performance. Thoughts now turn to Tuesday with a trip to fellow Division 1 side Barnstaple Town in the Southern League Cup. They have no fixture next Saturday but return to Bolitho Park on Tuesday 14th when Bideford are the visitors.
1 Moore, 2 Davis, 3 Lane, 4 Palfrey, 5 Rose, 6 A Bentley, 7 Hall, 8 Allen©, 9 Bath (87 Landricombe), 10 Andrew, 11 Crago
Substitutes: 12 Landricombe, 14 J Bentley(unused), 15 Smith (unused), 16 Castlehouse (unused), 17 Coombes GK (unused)