Alex Pike savoured Gosport’s enthralling play-off victory and insisted: It’s my greatest achievement.
Pike partied with his players and fans after their 3-1 extra-time win over Poole secured their place in the Southern League premier division.
The Borough manager was at the heart of celebrations, as his players dragged him across the Tatnam Farm penalty area on his back in front of delirious supporters.
Pike had no doubts the win was the highlight of his managerial career – even leaving in the shade his FA Vase success with Wimborne at Wembley in 1992.
He said: ‘I’ve been here nearly seven years. When I took over we were mid-table in the Wessex League.
‘But we won the Russell-Cotes Cup, won the Wessex League and had three years of consolidation – and now we are in the Southern premier.
‘It’s the first time I’ve been involved in something like this. The prize is so huge it eclipses all other achievements.
‘I won the FA Vase 20 years ago but this eclipses that. That was a cup – this is taking the club to the next level.
‘We have a five-year game plan to get into the Conference South and we are two years ahead of schedule.’
Pike heaped praise on the resilience of his men to fight their way back into the game in stoppage-time.
There was plenty of edge to the final as players took no prisoners throughout.
That was off the back of Poole defender Michael Walker taunting Boro strikers Steve Claridge and Justin Bennett in the build-up to the game.
The duo had the last laugh, though, as they shared their team’s three goals between them.
Pike said: ‘We’ve done it the hard way all season. But this side never know when they are dead.
‘I thought Poole were the better side. They finished above us in the league and were the better side.
‘I felt they deserved to go up, but we turned the game on its head and then got the momentum.
‘I have to go on record and thank Michael Walker for doing my job for me, too.
‘He said he could keep Steve Claridge and Justin Bennett quiet all afternoon. Who were the scorers?
‘When people say things like that it does my job for me.
‘I didn’t regard the talk as needle, but it got that way. I can only thank him after pinning that up in the dressing room.’
Pike heaped praise on game-changer Claridge who entered the fray with 14 minutes left and grabbed two goals.
He said: ‘We know we can bring Steve on and he’ll make a difference.
‘He could easily have scored a hat-trick.
‘He’s been around and knows about games like this. He has scored goals in play-off finals. He was our secret weapon. It was Roy of the Rovers stuff.’