A battling failed to prevent Gosport Borough slipping to a 2-0 Southern League premier division defeat at Kettering Town.
Manager Mick Catlin, however, was full of praise for the fight his team put up against their top-six hosts.
‘I am proud of the team and the way they were prepared to battle,’ said Catlin.
‘Kettering are a good side, very physical and very direct.
‘We went toe to toe with them and stood up to their physicality.
‘In our midfield we had one 18 year old and three 19 year olds.
‘A few weeks ago we would have let them bully us so I can see a big improvement.’
Gosport came under pressure early on and fell behind after just six minutes.
Aaron O’Connor latched onto a through ball and thumped his effort past Tom Price in the Borough goal and into the roof of the net.
Borough, however, refused to buckle and with the defence superbly marshalled by Hawks loanee Lee Molyneaux kept the hosts at bay until the break.
‘I felt if we could be a bit better on the ball in the second half we might sneak something,’ said Catlin.
‘We pushed on but got caught out to concede a second goal.’
Goalkeeper Tom Price came in for special praise as he produced a string of outstanding saves.
It will act as a big confidence boost.
‘Tom showed just what a good goalkeeper he is,’ said Catlin.
‘His one save to keep the ball out of the top corner was out of the top drawer.
‘Being a local lad it means a lot to him to do well.’
Catlin was also pleased with the debut from new loanee striker Connor Davis.
Davis has arrived on loan from Championship side Reading and he put in a hard-working performance for the visitors.
‘He didn’t see a lot of the ball but worked back a lot and helped in defence,’ said Catlin.
‘Once he settles in, he will be a big asset.’
Borough host Kings Langley in the league at Privett Park on Tuesday (7.45pm).