Winchester City welcomed football back to the Denplan Stadium as Oli Bailey bagged a brace against his former club, Gosport Borough.

The Citizens had opened their warm-up campaign with a 2-2 draw against Romsey Town, featuring a slightly rotated squad prior to hosting Borough.

Gosport had endured a torrid season in the National South last time out, suffering relegation and conceding 101 goals. 

The rebuilding of the squad ahead of their return to the Southern Premier has begun, and a largely unrecognisable side began the game. 

Only three of the starting XI remained from Alex Pike’s squad from the previous season, with reserve keeper Ellis Grant beginning the game.

Winchester and Gosport players battling it out during the friendly

Any sign of an immediate improvement was sorely missing when they went a goal behind after just four minutes. The goal was the hallmark of a pre-season friendly – lazy defending allowing Jack White a free header after a cheeky lifted ball into the box by Citizens Captain Barrow from a free-kick.

A near replay of the opener almost played out when a floated cross found White again, but his header was well saved by Grant in the Gosport goal. The visitors took a while to get going, allowing Winchester to control a game for the most part.

Under pressure, Gosport Goalie Grant’s sliced his clearance, allowing Barrow an opportunity to fire upon an open goal. With little time to fling the ball towards the target, the ex-Gosport man could only send his effort floating over the bar, allowing Grant to get away with his mishap.

It took until the 37th minute for Boro’ to launch a meaningful attack, attacking down the left flank to deliver a ball across goal. With the pass reaching the back post, Gosport No.10 Chilton Vine was able to latch onto the ball – but a fantastic full-stretch save by Pryce in the Citizens’ goal denied the visitor’s an equaliser.

Unfortunately for the guests, it got worse before it got better – as their former striker grabbed the hosts’ second goal. Bailey had only left Privett Park a month ago, but it appeared he has already settled into his new surroundings.

His first goal was a real poacher’s effort – the diminutive attacker seized upon a loose ball in the box, first drilling it against both the post and Boro’ defender McMillan on the line, before smashing the ball against the bottom of the cross bar and in from less than a yard out.

However, the second goal served as a wake-up call for the away side, and they set-up another entertaining half of football when they pulled a goal back prior to half time. Similar to Gosport’s first attack, ex-Team Solent Student Tyrell Mitford found space down the right flank, producing a cross for Vine in the area. All Vine had to do was tap home to reduce the arrears.

The game took a while to get going in the second half, with the Citizens still on top throughout. However, Bailey’s second sparked the game back into life. Reading the bounce of the ball in the box, the striker’s volley on the turn flew past substitute keeper Watch and into the net, re-awarding Winchester their two-goal advantage.

Their two-goal lead remained intact for less than 10 minutes, when a fantastic solo run from Liam Kimber saw Winchester’s defence left strewn apart in the wake of the attacker. He finished his slaloming run with a fine finish past ex-Boro’ keeper Ryan Pryce, setting up a tightly contested final 15 minutes.

The Citizens came close to grabbing another goal, when a substitute clipped the bar with a glancing header.

Bemerton Heath is the next location on Gosport’s pre-season trail, whilst Winchester entertain National South Hungerford at home.

11th July 2017 - Jack Tanner