Poppies manager Michael Cuffie reflected on the progress of his side after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory against Gosport Borough.
Despite trailing to the Southern Premier side until the final three minutes, Poppies capped off another Hampshire Senior Cup comeback to triumph emphatically on spot-kicks.
The second-round clash looked set to end in the visitors’ favour, before a last-gasp Poppies equaliser sparked scenes of jubilation at Victoria Park. Fawzi Saadi then smashed home the decisive penalty to send the Winton-based outfit into the third round.
Cuffie admitted that he was confident about his side’s chances heading into the clash: “What a game. What a result. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty confident before the game. I was also confident during the game, we played some really nice stuff.”
The manager also emphasised the improvement among his ranks, as Poppies ensured another late victory to surge forward in another cup competition. “But this is how far we’ve come. Two leagues above, and they were hanging on at 2-1. We scored in the last three minutes to take it to penalties – job done!“
“It’s nice. All our hard work, all the work behind the scenes, everything we’re putting together, it’s all working very well. It’s about enjoying it when you win.” also said with enthusiasm.
Gosport twice edged into the lead during a relentless showing at a windy Victoria Park. On 15 minutes, a corner whipped into the Poppies’ penalty area was headed beyond Sam Jones.
Manny Ohameje then cropped up at the far post to prod home the leveller, before the visitors retook the lead after Jones’ superb parry was slotted into the empty net from close range.
Cuffie revealed what he said to his players during the interval: “We were 2-1 down, and I told them at half-time how pleased I was. They were sitting with their heads down because they don’t have the losing mentality.
“We’re not used to losing, and that’s what keeps them going. Fair play to them, they got what they deserved because they deserved to win the game.” admitted Cuffie.
A tightly-contested second half saw Poppies squander several fine openings, with Fawzi Saadi, Mickey Finch and Ali Zintany all forcing the Gosport goalkeeper into a string of fine saves But on the stroke of 90 minutes, chaos in the visiting penalty area ensued and a red and white shirt was on hand to smash home and send the tie to penalties.
Similar to the first-round drama at Bashley, a last-gasp goal was capped off with five unerring spot kicks. A plunging stop from Jones down to his left sealed Poppies’ spot in the next round.
After his heroics, including a breath-taking stop as Gosport searched for a winner in additional time, goalkeeper Jones admitted he was ‘ecstatic’.
“I’m feeling great. I had a feeling he was going to place his penalty, and as soon as it came off his foot I knew I’d save it. It feels brilliant to be in the next round.”