Pike praise as Boro book play-off place

Jistin Bennett
Jistin Bennett
Jaosn Prior. Picture: Keith Woodland

Late heartbreak for Hawks

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Alex Pike praised his Gosport Borough side as they ‘churned’ out a 2-1 win over champions-elect Bideford to book their place in the Southern League division one and south & west play-offs.

First-half goals from Justin Bennett and Nathan Kirby earned the Privett Park side three valuable points in their push for promotion.

Richard Groves pulled a goal back for the visitors, who had Matt Andrew sent off late in the first half, on 77 minutes after a contentious free-kick was awarded on the edge of the Gosport penalty area.

But it wasn’t enough to put Gosport in a panic, leaving Pike challenging his players to finish the season in style and book the runners-up spot in the league table.

‘We needed to get struck in to churn out a result and on the balance of play, we thoroughly deserved to take another three points,’ said Pike.

‘I didn’t think it was a foul on the edge of our area for Bideford to be awarded a free-kick but even when the ball ended up in our net, the lads were never going to give them the slightest of chances to get an equaliser.

‘What is important is that we have several more tough fixtures to get through and provided we compete for every ball, as we did against Bideford, then we could be in for an exciting end to our season.’

Even without Steve Claridge to add sparkle to the Borough attack, the home side looked a class outfit from the first kick of the ball until the last.

Numerous chances were created against Sean Joyce’s side, with the only downfall being the number of opportunities wasted by the home side.

Fortunately for Borough, Bennett was at his best – constantly upsetting the Bideford defence with devastating runs that eventually brought him a goal on 20 minutes.

There was a hint of good fortune with the goal, after the ball struck him and sailed over keeper Paul Hider from a defender’s clearance.

But Bennett did well to pile pressure on Aaron Harper-Penman and force him into the mistake right in front of goal.

When Bennett took time out for a breather, team-mates Adam Wilde and Dan Wooden then seized control.

And on 35 minutes they produced the goods for Kirby to head home from a corner.

As play resumed, Borough’s Gavin Jones – later named man of the match – was subjected to an elbow in the face by Andrew, who was immediately red carded.

Wooden was also roughed up in the Bideford penalty area and had to be replaced by new-signing Craig Feeney with 15 minutes remaining.

Then, and only then, did Borough let themselves down by giving away an unnecessary free-kick on the edge of their area.

Groves pulled a goal back for Bideford, but it was too little too late as they succumbed to only their third league defeat of the season.

Borough return to action today, with a trip to second-placed Sholing (midday).

Victory would see Gosport leapfrog their hosts into second in the league table.