Ten-man Gosport Borough moved to within four points of the play-off zone with a gritty 1-0 win at bottom-club Andover.
Striker James Taylor grabbed Borough’s decisive goal from the penalty spot after 28 minutes but the visitors had Liam Crook controversially sent off with half an hour still to play.
A superb rearguard action saw Borough hold on to maintain their unbeaten start to the year.
‘It was an ugly win and we made hard work of it,’ said assistant manager Mick Catlin.
‘The pitches at this time of year are not conducive to good football and it was a case of having to get stuck in to win the personal battles.
‘We couldn’t understand why Liam Crook was sent off because he was just running back with their lad and they got tangled up.
‘The referee sent him off for violent conduct but we just couldn’t see that.
‘Andover threw everything at us after that but we weathered the storm and could even have added to our goals.’
On a difficult surface, the game soon became a physical battle and it was the visitors who made the breakthrough.
Taylor went down in the area under minimal contact and then dusted himself off to convert his spot-kick.
Borough were indebted to goalkeeper Nick Hutchings who produced a magnificent double save to preserve their lead.
The dismissal of Crook presented Borough with a tough finale but they rose to the challenge magnificently.
Catlin was full of praise for the way his team defended.
‘Aaron Cook and Alex Ward were superb in the centre of our defence,’ he said.
‘I don’t think I have ever seen them head so many balls out.
‘Dean Arnold, playing as a holding midfield player in front, made a series of important tackles and blocks.
‘Taylor also provided us with a big physical presence and we knew everytime we knocked the ball up to him he would hold it up.’
Leading-goalscorer Justin Bennett, playing against his old club, had a quiet final game for Borough before departing for Blue Square South side Eastleigh.
‘We will miss Justin but we have Hawks striker Liam Sewell coming to us on loan,’ confirmed Catlin.
Borough can move to within a point of the play-offs tomorrow night when they visit second-from-bottom Clevedon Town, who were defeated 2-0 at Abingdon on Saturday.