Tom Dunford felt his patience had paid off as he targeted an extended run in the Gosport Borough side.
The 23-year-old midfielder capped his recall to the team with his first league goal of the season in the 1-1 draw at table-topping Boreham Wood as Borough moved up to fifth place in Vanarama Conference South.
It was only his second start since the 3-3 FA Cup draw at Larkhall back in September, where he also scored, but it has been a succession of substitute appearances since then as the former Southampton Academy graduate has been forced to bide his time.
Dunford admitted he’s found it difficult waiting for his chance and had sought answers over where he stood from the Borough management team of Alex Pike and Mick Catlin.
But after being reassured, Dunford is now keen to grasp his opportunity.
He said: ‘It’s been hard. I’ve spoken to Cats and Pikey a few times about it but they just told me to keep my head up and my chance would come.
‘It’s annoying to be in and out of the team and it’s hard to keep yourself as fit as you want.
‘But I know I just have to do my best to take my chance when it comes along and hopefully I’ve done that.
‘I’ve had to be patient but now it’s up to to me to take my opportunity and try to stay in the side.’
Borough stemmed the early flow of pressure when the Isle of Wight-based midfielder was alert to tuck home after the keeper spilled Danny Smith’s low shot in the 18th minute.
Ricky Shakes pounced to grab an equaliser for the home side just beyond the hour mark to peg Pike’s side back just when Borough appeared to be in control of the game and frustrating their opponents.
Aside from that moment where they failed to clear a loose ball from their box, Borough defended stoutly against a good side who created the better chances.
They were also indebted to Nathan Ashmore for two terrific first-half saves – one a reflex stop from a point-blank header before he then somehow grabbed a goal-bound Lee Angol effort while lying flat on his back.
The result saw the Privett Park outfit maintain their unbeaten away record this season and extended their run to just one defeat in 15 – with that one reverse dished out by a ruthless Colchester in the FA Cup.
But boss Pike was left with mixed feelings that his side had not been able to see the game out.
He said: ‘I’m always disappointed if we don’t win and I think we could have done lots of things better.
‘The first time we had a bit of good play, it resulted in a goal.
‘After that, we didn’t really pass the ball that well. We tried to put the ball behind them too often.
‘We’ve got to be happy with a point away from home at the league leaders, but the disappointment is that we went 1-0 up and gave away the goal as we did. We had chances to clear it.
‘We worked hard but sometimes you need a bit more quality. I thought we showed the quality for the goal but when you are playing against a good side, you need to keep the ball a bit better than we did.
‘You can see why Boreham Wood are top of the league. But I was proud of the way the boys battled.’
GOSPORT BOROUGH: Ashmore, Forbes, Pearce, Poate, Williams, Dunford, Carter, Smith, Wooden, Bennett, Paterson (Wort, 87min). Subs not used: Molyneaux, Wilde, Saez, Ramsey