Pike unable to match his 1992 joy

Justin Bennett is consoled by manager Alex Pike. Picture: Dave Haines
Justin Bennett is consoled by manager Alex Pike. Picture: Dave Haines
Jaosn Prior. Picture: Keith Woodland

Late heartbreak for Hawks

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Twenty-two years ago, Alex Pike steered a non-league club to success in a national competition at Wembley.

With his eyes set on becoming the first manager to complete the FA Vase and FA Trophy double, sadly his Gosport Borough side were unable to match the achievements of his Wimborne Town team from 1992.

Pike was keen to divert the attention to his players in the run-up to the final, after all he has already sampled the joy of a big Wembley occasion.

But after a convincing 4-0 loss to an impressive Cambridge United side who were simply in a different class, he has now also experienced the pain of defeat in a showpiece event.

Pike said: ‘Some players take the experience in different ways.

‘Maybe some were overawed and some weren’t.

‘A few of the older guys will probably know it was their last chance to play at Wembley.

‘Perhaps some of the younger ones will think they can get back here again.

‘But it’s taken me 22 years to get back to Wembley so that’s how hard it is and it’s not a nice experience to lose.

‘People might have thought that Gosport Borough would just turn up to enjoy the day.

‘But I genuinely felt we could win the game.

‘I tried to get that belief to filter down but it didn’t quite happen for us. So it’s a feeling of sheer disappointment.

‘Getting a footballing lesson from Cambridge is not an easy pill to swallow.’

While the two sides were evenly-matched in the first half, Ryan Bird’s opener settled Cambridge to enjoy the occasion with more confidence.

And it left Borough chasing the game, especially when they were 2-0 down inside five minutes of the second half.

Pike said: ‘I saw the statistics for the first half and we dominated the corners, shots at goal and possession.

‘Unfortunately, statistics don’t win you a football match – goals win you matches.

‘That’s the column where Cambridge came out on top and deservedly so.

‘They were more clinical in front of goal, their movement was far superior to ours and it was a lesson.

‘But up until the 38th minute, we didn’t seem to have a problem.

‘And every TV crew told me that the first goal was offside.

‘I couldn’t see from where I was but it looked marginal. Unfortunately, that had a bearing on the game.

‘Once you go 1-0 down to a quality team like Cambridge, you start chasing the game.

‘Then you leave inevitable spaces at the back.

‘They have quality players like Bird and Donaldson who can exploit that.’

And Pike’s men must quickly switch their attentions back to their league campaign.

They travel to Tonbridge Angels tomorrow night.

Pike added: ‘We had a fantastic team spirit before this run in the competition but getting to Wembley has only galvanised that.

‘Now it’s up to me as a manager to tap into that to get us out of the trouble we are in.’