Merson’s double for Saints sinks Gosport

Sam Merson prepares to have a shot from the edge of the box

Sam Merson prepares to have a shot from the edge of the box - Credit: Archant

A brace from Sam Merson ensured St Albans City got their first win in three National League South games after overcoming Gosport Borough.

Louie Theophanous looks on to see his penalty saved

Louie Theophanous looks on to see his penalty saved - Credit: Archant

With goals in either half and the winner coming in the 92nd minute, Saints fans were not short of entertainment in an end-to-end affair at Clarence Park.

A short-corner routine enabled Merson to put the hosts ahead, but Gosport pulled level from a corner of their own, the scores even heading into the break.

City were by far the better side in the second half and missed a penalty before Merson got his second and won the game at the death.

Good interplay in the opposition third led to a Saints corner.

The short routine eventually yielded a cross to the back post, where Merson rose highest to head past Rice for the opening goal in the 24th minute.

Gosport danger-man Bentley stooped to head a hopeful ball into the box, with keeper James Russell making an excellent save to tip the ball over the bar – but the resulting corner led to the visitors’ first goal.

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Brett Poate getting the vital touch to even the scoreline with just under half an hour played.

The game was frantic with chances at both ends – Saints’ top-scorer Louie Theophanous forced Rice into a smart double save at his near post to stop the hosts regaining the lead, before he saw another effort cleared off the line by a covering defender moments later.

A looping header from Gosport’s Josh Carmichael had Russell back-pedalling towards his line, and the City goalkeeper had the crossbar to thank with the scores level heading into the break.

Shortly after half-time Lee Chappell pulled the ball back to the edge of the area only for Shaun Lucien to shoot over the bar, his effort always rising.

Soon after Matt Ball struck a free-kick from distance and forced Rice into a fine save.

Merson then dragged a volley just wide of the far post – with the hosts unlucky not to be ahead.

Then, with just over 10 minutes of the game remaining, substitute Rhys Hoenes was hauled down in the area for a Saints penalty.

Theophanous took responsibility for the spot-kick, but his low driven effort was superbly saved, again, by Rice.

The game looked to be heading to a draw, but fortunately Russell was alert between the sticks, keeping out two goal-bound efforts in quick succession.

Then, on the break from a Gosport corner, a mazy run from substitute Dipo Akinyemi finally saw the ball fall land at the feet of Merson.

He swept home with a side-foot finish from close range in injury time.

The bench (and even some supporters) ran into the corner to celebrate the late winner – Merson somersaulting in jubilation.