Hayling United boss Lee Paul admitted he was ‘thrilled’ as his battling side gave title-chasing GE Hamble a huge scare before slipping to a 5-3 defeat.
The Humbugs raced into a 2-0 lead in the first half of the Wessex League premier-division clash at the College Ground.
And they led 3-1 at the start of the second period, before a hat-trick from ace predator Jamie Musselwhite finally sank the home side.
‘Even though we lost in the end we were thrilled by our performance,’ said Paul.
‘We were brilliant in the first half and showed again that we can raise our game against the top sides.
‘Nineteen-year-old Aaron Ketchen caused them all sorts of problems out wide.
‘We were structured, defended well and hit them on the counter-attack.
‘In the end we just ran out of steam against a very good side but they had to be at their best in the second half to beat us.’
Hayling shocked the visitors by taking a two-goal lead in the opening 15 minutes through a Lenny Burney penalty and a Ketchen strike.
The Humbugs shrugged off a Hamble reply five minutes before the break to restore their two-goal lead early in the second half, with Ketchen adding his second of the game. That goal fired the visitors into life and they took control as the Humbugs tired.
Also in the premier division, Moneyfields cruised to a 4-0 win at Alresford Town thanks to a brace of goals from Steve Hutchings.
It was a dominant performance by Miles Rutherford’s men and the biggest mystery for the frozen Moneys faithful who travelled to Jane Austen country was how they managed to score only four times.
But for some profligate finishing and a superb performance from Chris Waller in the home goal, they would have eclipsed last month’s 7-2 League Cup victory at Arlesbury Park.
The visitors made light of the muddy conditions with two goals in the first seven minutes.
With five minutes on the clock, Hutchings was quickest to react after Waller blocked his initial effort, and two minutes later good work by Conor Bailey created an easy chance for Jamie Hore.
With keeper Dave Hook largely a spectator, it was a surprise that it took another 36 minutes for the Copnor side to increase their lead thanks to Luke Middleton’s totally unopposed header from Bailey’s corner.
When Hutchings grabbed the fourth early in the second half, Moneys must have fancied their chances of equalling that cup score. Instead, they squandered a series of chances.
And when they did hit the target, Waller produced a string of fine saves to deny them.
That culminated in a double save to turn away Sol Asajile’s shot and then block George Gregory’s effort as he raced onto the rebound.
Unsurprisingly, Rutherford was a happy man after the sixth win in eight matches.
‘Given the conditions, I’m pleased with the performance and another three points,’ he said.
‘If I was to be picky, we should have had another couple of goals as the scoreline didn’t reflect the one-sided nature of the game.’