Alex Pike savoured Justin Bennett’s wonder strike that sent Gosport Borough to the play-off final but smiled: I’ve seen him score a better one than that.
While the Borough boss struggled to keep his emotions under wraps in the moments after Bennett’s strike, with a Barry Fry-style celebratory run up the touchline, he insisted he’d watched his top marksman produce a finer finish in the clash with Bridgwater Town earlier this season.
Many of those present last night discussed whether Bennett’s overhead bicycle kick was the best goal ever seen at Privett Park as Borough edged a 1-0 win over Sholing in their Southern League division one south & west play-off semi-final.
Pike was typically forthright with his opinion – although he did admit that it was the second best goal he had seen his striker score.
The Borough boss said: ‘Justin actually scored one even better against Bridgwater earlier in the season.
‘I think that one was the best goal I have seen in my whole career.
‘To be fair, this one wasn’t far behind it but if you give him half a yard in the box he can make something out of it.
‘There are not many players at this level who have got the technique to do that or the confidence to try it. That is why we have got one of the best assets in the league in Justin Bennett.
‘I think managers have said that you have to stop Justin to stop Gosport.
‘Sholing stopped him facing goal but they couldn’t stop him with his back to goal.
‘It was a superb bicycle kick, it’s in the back of the net and that was just sheer quality.’
While Bennett himself felt it was the best goal of his career, the 29-year-old former Eastleigh man revealed that trying his luck was not his first thought as the ball dropped towards him.
Gosport’s top scorer this season said: ‘With the occasion, it’s the best goal I’ve ever scored.
‘I did score quite a good volley at Bridgwater earlier in the season, but this one meant more because we all want promotion so badly.
‘I remember the ball hanging in the air, my back was to goal and I was looking to hold it up and maybe lay it off but there was nobody there so I thought “I’ll have to have a go”.
‘I could probably try it another 100 times and I wouldn’t even get it on target so it was nice that it ended up in the bottom corner.
‘I didn’t see it go in, but I heard the shouts and everyone running towards me so I knew it had gone in.
‘It’s funny because I was watching the Wayne Rooney overhead goal on TV the other day when he did it against Manchester City and I was trying to explain to my missus how technically difficult it is to do that even though she wasn’t impressed!
‘But I’ve never scored one like that one before and I don’t think I’ll ever score another one like it.’
Bennett’s moment of magic was the deciding factor on the scoresheet but Pike was honest enough to admit that the real turning point came with the sending off of Sholing midfielder Lewis Fennemore in first-half stoppage time.
Pike said: ‘The sending off killed the game for them. If you can’t win the game with the extra man then you don’t deserve to go on to the final.
‘I know Lewis and he’s not that type of player but that was the turning point.
‘In my opinion, it was a sending off and I think the occasion got to him because it was an horrendous tackle. He went through my player’s shin pad and he’s got two stud marks in his shin.
‘Sholing were definitely the better side in that first half. They had more chances and if it wasn’t for two great saves from Nathan Ashmore, we’d have been in big trouble.’
Borough will now face either a trip to Poole Town or a home clash with Hungerford Town for the second promotion place.
But Pike has already started planning his side’s visit to Dorset ahead of tonight’s second semi-final.
He said: ‘Hungerford are big underdogs.
‘They beat Poole at Poole and are one of the few teams to do it, but they will need Poole to have four men sent off and the other seven Poole players to have an off day to have a chance of winning that one.’
Bennett added: ‘We are expecting to play Poole but you never know.
‘I think we will be underdogs going there.
‘But this is new territory for us and we’re looking forward to it.’