GOSPORT BOROUGH’s fine FA Trophy run came to an end as they lost 1-0 at home to Blue Square Bet South visitors Braintree Town at Privett Park.
With a little bit more fortune, though, Borough could have earned a replay at Cressing Road.
Borough had already accounted for Slough Town, Sholing and Godalming on their way to the first round proper.
Veteran striker Steve Claridge returned to the side but it was James Ford who came closest to snatching some glory for the hosts.
Sadly, Ford’s late strike cannoned back off the crossbar rather than rippling the net.
That meant Dean Wells’ header, on 52 minutes, was enough to take Braintree into the next round.
‘Of course it was disappointing to lose but if the effort that hit the bar had been an inch or two lower, then we would have been on our way up to Essex for a replay,’ said Pike.
‘I firmly believe we gave them a game they will remember.
‘That is important to us, particularly as they are a full Blue Square Bet club, which is three stages higher than the Southern League standard we play in.’
Ford’s effort was the closest Borough came to a goal, as Braintree, having done their research in the weeks leading up to the contest, shackled Claridge and his Borough strike-partner Justin Bennett.
Pike introduced Dan Wooden and youngster Ross Langworthy from the substitutes’ bench in an effort to turn the game.
But their impact was minimal and Braintree secured their 1-0 success to pocket the £6,000 prize money.
It would have been an even more comfortable victory for Braintree had they not spurned several chances to increase their lead.
They almost paid a high price but the woodwork came to their rescue.