Vanarama Conference South
Boreham Wood 1-1 Gosport Borough
BOREHAM WOOD came from behind for the third consecutive home game, this time to draw 1-1 with Gosport Borough on a grey and drizzly afternoon at Meadow Park.
This had the makings of a fascinating contest, and, on an otherwise gloomy day where the floodlights were on well before kick-off, it didn't disappoint.
Wood proudly sat four points clear at the top of Conference South, following last Saturday's draw at Concord Rangers, the club which will host Mansfield Town in an FA Cup 1st Round replay on Tuesday night.
Visitors Gosport Borough arrived in Hertfordshire in fine form themselves - seventh in the table, seven points behind Wood but with three games in hand. Last season's FA Trophy runners-up were on a run of one defeat in 14 games in all competitions, their only reversal in over two months being the 3-6 loss against League One Colchester United in the FA Cup.
Borough are also unbeaten away from home this season, and although Boreham Wood had won 1-0 down at Privett Park when these two teams met in September, Wood chairman Danny Hunter rates the Hampshire team as the best his side have faced so far this season.
Despite a bright start from the home side, it was Gosport Borough who took the lead on 18 minutes. After home 'keeper James Russell had parried Dan Smith's shot, Tom Dunford reacted quickest to slot home. The goal prompted an unusual bell-ringing celebration from one visiting fan sitting adjacent to the press box.
In a now familiar situation of being a goal down at home, Wood went in search of an equaliser. Centre-back Josh Hill side-footed the lively Matty Wichelow's cross just wide, and only a remarkable double save from Gosport 'keeper Nathan Ashmore denied the league leaders in the 37th minute. First, he parried Ricky Shakes' shot, before recovering to block Lee Angol's re-bound effort at point blank range.
Late goals in Wood's last two homes fixtures, against Wealdstone and Maidenhead United, had turned a 0-1 half-time deficit into a 2-1 win. Today, the home fans had to wait only until the 62nd minute for the equaliser, when Whichelow's low cross from the left was eventually stabbed home by Shakes after several ricochets in the penalty area.
The game continued with Wood enjoying the majority of possession, but with Gosport still dangerous on the break. Ashmore again came to the visitors' rescue, parrying Junior Morias' swerving shot two-handed, and there was a late shout for a penalty when Sam Cox appeared to get a push in the back as he tried to meet Luke Garrard's lofted cross at the far post.
There was to be no late winner this time though, and Boreham Wood had to settle for a draw.
It had been an entertaining contest between two in-form teams at Meadow Park, and a good advertisement for Conference South football. The one point gained for Wood today is also enough to keep Ian Allinson's team three points clear at the top of the table, as they now prepare for the visit of struggling Weston-super-Mare on Monday evening.
This was the second home game where Boreham Wood FC ran their new initiative to boost home support. Representatives of a wide range of local clubs, be it Cubs, Scouts, athletics, football or indeed any local youth club, can now purchase an adult matchday ticket for £10 (normal price £13) which also includes admission for two children. In addition to the discounted admission, for each ticket purchased, Boreham Wood will donate £4 to the relevant club or society.
According to Wood's Community Manager Charlie Hunter, 53 tickets were sold through this scheme when it was first run for the home game versus Wealdstone two weeks ago, resulting in £212 being donated to local clubs, and over 80 children coming to see their local team go top of the league.
Without a substantial away following, Meadow Park was much more sparsely populated today than it had been two weeks ago, and lacked the sort of buzz which would have been fitting of a top-of-the-table clash like this.
But it's worth remembering that, one year ago, Boreham Wood were languishing in the bottom three of this league, while Meadow Park's West Stand was still under construction. Twelve months on, with a slightly increased home support and a four-sided ground, they are top of the table, and refusing to be beaten.