Gosport Borough’s record goalscorer Justin Bennett should have been handed a chance with a professional club, according to Alex Pike.
The 32-year-old striker broke through the 200-goal barrier for the club with a hat-trick in the 5-0 rout at Weston-super-Mare last weekend as Borough continued their promising start to the new Vanarama South campaign.
After breaking Richie Coulbert’s record of 192 goals for the Privett Park outfit last season, Bennett has started this term in a rich vein of form.
Five goals in four games has taken him to an impressive haul of 201 career goals for the club he joined from Eastleigh back in 2007.
The Borough boss believes Bennett has been a key part of the club’s rise through the divisions to their highest level in their history.
But ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Concord Rangers, Pike remains surprised that a Football League club never opted to take a gamble on Bennett.
Pike said: ‘We paid £5,000 for Justin back in 2007 and the chairman says it’s the best £5,000 he has ever spent.
‘We bought him in my second year.
‘And we have only ever paid a fee for two players – him and Nathan Ashmore.
‘He’s been the lynchpin of my success at this club.
‘Goalscorers of that ability are hard to find.
‘Personally, I think he should have been given a chance to play at professional level. His record proves that.
‘I think he is a natural goalscorer. If you can score goals, you can do it at any level.’
Bennett signed a new two-year deal in the summer and has also been awarded a testimonial when he reaches 10 years with the club.
But his days looked numbered when he was loaned out to Poole Town last term.
Pike said: ‘I sent him out on loan because he completely lost confidence and never looked like scoring a goal.
‘Now, he looks like he will score in every game.
‘There’s been a lot of focus on him to beat the record and then getting to 200 goals.
‘It was starting to be a monkey on his back but thankfully, they have all been put to bed now.
‘To get a hat-trick and to go through the 200-goal barrier is fantastic for him.
‘But now he can forget about it and concentrate on becoming the top goalscorer in the league.
‘He can focus on what he does best – putting the ball in the back of the net.’
Pike, meanwhile, is refusing to get carried away by his team’s unbeaten start.
He said: ‘We need to keep our feet on the ground as it will be a different challenge this weekend.
‘We know it will be a physical battle at Concord and we need to match them.’
GOSPORT: (from) Ashmore, Carter, Molyneaux, Poate, Pearce, Forbes, Williams, Dunford, Smith, Ramsey, Saez, Wilde, Wooden, Bennett, Paterson, Wort, Matthews.